Legal Newsline

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

NCAA faces seven more concussion-related class actions

By Quinten Plummer | Sep 30, 2016

INDIANAPOLIS (Legal Newsline) – Just as football season was preparing to kick off, the National Collegiate Athletic Association got hit with another round of lawsuits related to concussions student-athletes endured while engaging in collegiate sports.

The seven class action suits, all filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, bring the count against the NCAA to 22 pending concussion-related cases. The previous batch of class action cases were filed as late as May of this year.

The seven suits all name as defendants the NCAA and its Southeastern Conference (SEC), Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), Ohio Valley Conference (OVC) and Conference USA (C-USA). There were three class action suits that named the Southern Conference and one that specifically named the University of Miami, along with the ACC, in which the school is a member.

In the suit filed against the University of Miami, along with the NCAA and ACC, the plaintiffs assert that the defendants were aware of the "debilitating long-term dangers of concussions" and injuries related to brain trauma.

The plaintiffs, along with a class of former players, assert that each of them were under the defendant's care. However, the defendant didn't care about the long-term consequences that would follow players off the field and for the rest of their lives, according to the complaint.

"Despite knowing for decades of a vast body of scientific research describing the danger of [traumatic brain injury], defendants failed to implement procedures to protect plaintiff and other University of Miami football players from the long-term dangers associated with them. They did so knowingly and for profit," the court document stated.

In recent years, the NCAA has started to publicly acknowledge the danger of traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and that may be due in large to Bennet Omalu, the forensic pathologist made famous for his discovery of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTI).

Last year, the NCAA announced that it partnered with the Department of Defense on a $22 million study, now earmarked for $30 million, that will take a deeper look on the potential impact of TBI. More than 35,000 military cadets and college athletes are assisting in the study, which is still ongoing.

In the meantime, the class action suits related to concussions are still piling up before the NCAA. However, Richard Bridgford - an attorney at Bridgford Gleason & Artinian LLP in Newport Beach, California - doesn't anticipate that the NCAA will look to quiet these allegations with settlements.

"I would anticipate they're going to fight because they have lot on the line," Bridgford told Legal Newsline.

This is still all relatively uncharted territory for American football, as it has been only about six years since the NFL publicly accepted the finding of Omalu – it's important to note that his research was published roughly a decade ago, however. The NFL eventually reached a $1 billion settlement on a class action related to concussions.

"I think [the NCAA] will probably consult with the NFL's model," Bridgford said.

However, there's a big difference between NFL players and college athletes, he noted. College athletes aren't being paid to play.

"From that standpoint, it's a much more attractive case," Bridgford said. "They're not being paid millions of dollars to play."

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