August 29, 2013

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The NFL reached a $765 million settlement with former players suing over brain injuries. (Credit: Red Weasel Media)

In a stunning announcement, the NFL today stated it reached a $765 million settlement with a consortium of more than 4,500 former players suing the pro football league for failing to adequately protect players from head injuries.  The settlement fund will be used to fund medical care expenses, concussion research, and other concussion-related compensation.  Clinton Portis and Stephen Davis, two former Washington Redskins Pro Bowlers, were among the plaintiffs.  Other standout ex-Redskins who were part of the lawsuit include Hall of Famer Art Monk, Super Bowl MBP Mark Rypien, and middle linebacker Kurt Gouveia.

Art Monk’s lawsuit, which was originally filed in Los Angeles Superior Court stated that Monk “suffered multiple concussions that were improperly diagnosed and improperly treated throughout this career” and left him with headaches, memory loss, and speech problems.  The concussion cases were consolidated in the U.S. District Court in Pennsylvania.  The parties had been ordered into mediation earlier this month and an update on the litigation was not expected this early.  The $765 million settlement still needs final approval by U.S. District Judge Anita Brody.

“This is a historic agreement, one that will make sure that former NFL players who need and deserve compensation will receive it, and that will promote safety for players at all levels of football,” former U.S. District Judge Phillips, the court-appointed mediator, said in a statement. “Rather than litigate literally thousands of complex individual claims over many years, the parties have reached an agreement that, if approved, will provide relief and support where it is needed at a time when it is most needed. I am deeply grateful to Judge Brody for appointing me as mediator and offering me the opportunity to work on such an important and interesting matter.”

Although a case like this might not seem like it applies to the average person, the NFL concussion lawsuit perfectly illustrates how the civil judicial system allows regular citizens to seek justice against powerful corporations like the National Football League.  In America, the civil justice system is often the only way for citizens to hold large corporations accountable for their wrongdoing.

Some individuals have the misguided notion that civil lawsuits are only about money for the plaintiffs.  While compensation can be very important to cover costs like medical and funeral expenses that are incurred because of another’s wrongdoing, civil lawsuits are often about holding corporations, medical corporations, and mega-insurance firms responsible for negligent actions.  Legal claims can force companies to issue recalls of dangerous products, to improve safety warnings, and to develop policies and procedures that protect the public.  As Clinton Portis stated when he originally filed the lawsuit, “This is not about money for me I’m doing just fine!”

At The Cochran Firm, D.C., we represent individuals like these former NFL players, who have been hurt by others who put profits before people.  Our team of attorneys is experienced handling brain injury claims and understands how these injuries can seriously harm a victim’s quality of life.  Going forward, we hope the NFL treats brain injuries with the seriousness they deserve and makes serious efforts to protect players from concussions and other needless harms.