An Illinois federal judge has rejected a $75 million settlement to resolve lawsuits brought by ex-NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) athletes claiming they have suffered long-term damage from concussions. U.S. District Judge John Z. Lee told the parties to resume negotiations because he has concerns about the fairness of the deal.
Judge Lee denied without prejudice motions for preliminary approval of the settlement, saying a $70 million fund wouldn’t be enough to fully fund a 50-year medical monitoring program to examine former players for neurological ailments. The settlement also would have made major changes to the NCAA’s approach to concussion treatment and prevention, and would have created a $5 million fund for concussion research. But Judge Lee ruled Wednesday that the $70 million amount didn’t include athletes who — despite participating in noncontact sports like baseball, water polo, cross-country and golf — might still be subject to head injuries. The memorandum opinion and order said:
The risks of suffering a concussion while playing NCAA-sanctioned sports are scattered along a continuum with football on the highest end and sports such as riflery on the lower end. The class representatives as a group must adequately represent this continuum as a whole so that the various interests along the continuum can be voiced as part of the settlement process.
A spokeswoman for the NCAA told Law360 on Wednesday they are reviewing Judge Lee’s decision. Some class members have objected to the fact that the settlement neither covers treatment nor compensates players for their injuries. It allows them to file individual claims against the NCAA or their schools for damages, but forecloses the possibility of pursuing personal injury claims on a classwide basis. Judge Lee suggested at a previous hearing in October that the scope of the settlement may need to be limited to contact sports such as football and ice hockey, where the risk of concussions is most severe, or that class representatives from noncontact sports might need to be added to the mix.
Lawyers for the Plaintiffs said that they complied with the judge’s request that they ask current and former student-athletes in noncontact sports what they thought about the settlement, and ensure that the proposed class representatives had a chance to review and understand the settlement’s terms. But Judge Lee ruled that while the proposed settlement contained a provision requiring medical personal with concussion expertise to be present at contact sports, the deal didn’t have a similar measure for noncontact games and practice. The judge’s order reads:
This is not to say that the student-athletes who play or played noncontact sports would demand (or even desire) such protections as part of a negotiated settlement. But, in light of the undisputed data that more than half of the approximately 4.2 million potential class members play or played noncontact sports, the current class representatives simply are not qualified to make that decision for them.
I believe this settlement will have to be revised drastically before it receives final approval.
Contact us today for a free legal consultation with an experienced attorney.
Fields marked *may be required for submission.
If you would like to subscribe to the Jere Beasley Report digital edition, simply visit our Subscriptions page and provide the necessary information or call us at 800-898-2034.
Attorney Advertising - Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.