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  • NCAA Faces New Class-Action Concussion-Related Lawsuits

    The National Collegiate Athletic Association (“NCAA”) was hit with seven new concussion-related class action lawsuits on August 31, 2016. The new lawsuits increase the total number of lawsuits filed since May 2016 to 22 across the country.

    The latest cases have all been filed and are pending in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana. The seven class actions filed in Indiana federal court allege that student-athletes suffered from repeated head injuries and concussions. The plaintiffs claim that the defendants recklessly disregarded the health and safety of student-athletes, which resulted in dementia, Parkinson’s disease, memory loss, and other long-term brain injuries. The complaints further allege that the defendants kept players and the public in the dark about a dangerous epidemic affecting their athletes. Specifically, the complaints state that the named organizations knew about the dangers of concussions, but “actively concealed this information to protect the very profitable business of ‘amateur’ college football.” The complaints allege that the defendants had no concern for the off-field consequences that would plague their student-athletes for the remainder of their lives. The former college-athletes are now seeking damages for the injuries they incurred while playing college football.

    College football players from Florida State, Miami, Florida, Mississippi State, Kentucky, Louisville, and Murray State filed the latest round of class-action concussion lawsuits. While previous lawsuits targeted the South Eastern Conference and the NCAA, the more recent suits also include the Atlantic Coast Conference, the University of Miami, and the Big East Conference as named defendants.

    In recent years, concussion related litigation involving the NCAA has skyrocketed. For example, in April 2015, the NCAA reached a $75 million medical monitoring settlement on this issue; however, some players objected to the settlement, feeling that it did not accomplish anything for those student-athletes already experiencing neurological problems. Earlier in the month, the NCAA stated that it would pay $1.2 million to settle a wrongful death lawsuit filed in Maryland state court by the parents of a former football player who died in 2011, subsequent to a sports-related head injury. The settlement ended the case on the eve of the trial.

    Institutions should pay close attention to these types of cases, as they have the ability to have significant practical as well as legal implications. Additionally, in the wake of the current increase in these types of lawsuits, institutions are advised to review their concussion and athletics policies and update them if necessary to ensure compliance.

    If you have any questions or concerns regarding employment or education related issues, please contact Cynthia A. Augello at caugello@cullenanddykman.com or at (516) 357 – 3753.

    Thank you to Bridget Hart, a law clerk at Cullen and Dykman LLP, for her help with this post.