Cleveland, OH (Law Firm Newswire) November 6, 2013 - For years the NFL has denied any links between concussions on the football field and traumatic brain injury (TBI). Recently, they settled out of court for $765 million over concussion-related TBI.
While the settlement is regarded as proof that concussions are the precursor to TBI, it was also offered without any admission of liability or weakness claims. Witnesses never had a chance to tell their stories and allegedly exculpatory documents were not aired in court. Settling out of court means not facing the process of discovery and deposition. This settlement leaves many pointed questions begging for answers.
The settlement includes $4 million for deceased players, diagnosed after death with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), $5 million for athletes with Alzheimer’s and $3 million for players with dementia. There is also a clause that commits the League to spend $10 million on concussion care. “Considering the League makes, on average, $9.5 billion a year, it could be said that they got off the hook easily by settling out of court. That is often done if the defendant is not confident in their case,” explained Christopher Mellino, a Cleveland traumatic brain injury lawyer with Mellino Robenalt, LLC. “Had this case gone to trial, the possibilities of a much higher jury award existed.”
Since the 4,500 cases are mainly predicated on the allegation that the League deliberately withheld information from their players about concussions leading to CTE, Alzheimer’s and dementia, the question becomes how dangerous is playing football and how serious are blows to the head? Without a look at the NFL documents that will not see the light of day, yet, no one knows for certain what the League knew about TBI and how long they have known it was a potentially serious issue.
The settlement does have an opt-out option, and it is likely a number of players will appeal and raise numerous objections to the settlement. “That could make the next step in litigation rather interesting,” added Mellino, “as on appeal, there may be a chance to submit the League documents into evidence.”
Why is it important for concussions sustained by athletes to be taken seriously? “They need to be taken seriously because concussions open the door to TBI and other brain disorders. It is only thanks to the brain injury lawyers who have been handling the mass tort cases for injured players, negligently put back into playing a game after a concussion, that a settlement was negotiated. It will be thanks to the same brain injury lawyers that those who wish to appeal will be able to move forward seeking justice,” Mellino said.
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