The NFL Concussion Case: Not Over Yet

By Albert Conforzi | January 15, 2014

Toronto personal injury lawyer Albert Conforzi: “It ain’t over till it’s over” is one of the great sports sayings, and it now equally applies to personal injury litigation.

I have previously blogged in this space regarding the NFL head injury lawsuit and the NHL equivalent that is underway.
A tentative settlement was reached some time ago between the parties in the NFL class action and was then submitted to the court for approval. I read with interest this news piece from yesterday:

On Tuesday, Judge Anita B. Brody of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania rejected the proposed settlement because the league and the plaintiffs’ lawyers had not produced enough evidence to persuade her that the $765 million would cover the potential costs for the 18,000 retirees over the 65-year life of the agreement.

Brody denied a motion that was meant to serve as a preliminary approval for the settlement, seeking more information. The proposed settlement that the judge reviewed, which was released last week, was to form the basis for mailings sent to retired players. The players would then have several months to approve the settlement, or opt out of it.

Whenever a case is subject to court approval, whether in Canada or the US, materials are required by the court to justify approval being granted. The concern expressed here is that the amount of money being proposed as settlement may or may not be enough. The Court has asked for more information.

In the end, the judge may yet be satisfied, or she may throw it back to the parties and say that it is not enough money. At that point, the parties will either have to agree on a new figure (read: more money!), or I suppose the discussions could break down, leading to a trial of the matter.
In my nearly 30 years of doing personal injury litigation, I have never seen a case where a proposal was rejected by the court and the matter thereafter went to a trial, with the result being less than the original proposal. I wonder what the ramifications would be given judicial immunity.
The judge has clearly understood the serious nature of concussion injury and the long tail ramifications and cost of same. This dovetails nicely with the work here at home of Toronto-area Neurosurgeon Dr. Neilank Jha, who is building awareness for head injuries and concussions among athletes.
In any event, the materials for the NFL case will be recrafted by the lawyers and resubmitted for approval. I will continue to watch this story.

Albert Conforzi is a personal injury lawyer with Pace Law Firm in Toronto. Pace’s personal injury lawyers have been helping accident victims since 1980.