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NFL says concussion claims shouldn’t be made in court

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The NFL indeed wants to consolidate all pending concussion lawsuits into one action.  And then the NFL wants that combined piece of litigation to be rolled up into a ball and kicked out the window.

At today’s hearing in Miami before the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation, the league argued that lawsuits filed by former players alleging that the league failed to disclose the risks of concussions and/or failed to take steps to protect the players from concussions should be resolved via the collective bargaining process.

“You don’t get to come to court,” NFL counsel Beth Wilkinson said, via the Associated Press. “They should go through the process that’s laid out in the agreement.”

And that’s where an inherently complex question becomes increasingly convoluted.  How will players who played under a variety of version of the labor deal pursue their rights?

The league’s effort comes from an obsession by corporate interests to avoid the jury system, which remains one of the few entities over which the rich and powerful have little or no power to avoid losing a chunk of their riches.  And so if there’s an avenue for diverting the process from a group of ordinary citizens, whom many of the one percent regard as too simple or emotional to properly and fairly apply the law when confronted with sympathetic plaintiffs and affluent defendants, it’s worth the extra money to try to position the proceedings to be resolved by an arbitrator, who will be far less inclined to be influenced by the human consequences of concussions and far more inclined to apply the letter of the law when assessing the various rights and responsibilities.

In 18 years of practicing law, I was on both sides of that dynamic from time to time.  And the only sure thing is that this issue will delay, perhaps significantly, the ultimate disposition of these claims, wherever and however they are resolved.

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13 Responses to “NFL says concussion claims shouldn’t be made in court”
  1. mortimeryoung says: Jan 26, 2012 5:50 PM

    I bet the NFL does say that! Most employers would rather not be taken to court.

  2. emaimo80 says: Jan 26, 2012 5:50 PM

    Players get paid enough to play football! All of these new rules are a bunch of b.s. allow football to be played the way it was invented. If players decide they don’t like it than they have the option to retire.

  3. worldwidebleater says: Jan 26, 2012 6:16 PM

    Merrill Hodge asked “Judge, do you have any Shasta in your chambers? I’m thirsty.”

  4. jimmysee says: Jan 26, 2012 7:28 PM

    Seems to me it will be difficult for players to establish any neurological damage comes from their experience in the NFL — when they have been playing football since their pee-wee days.

    The NFL has the best equipment and medical staff available — it’s unlikely that was the case at any lower level.

  5. insider7 says: Jan 26, 2012 7:34 PM

    The NFL is essentially trying to bestow class action plaintiff status on all former NFL players and then secure them in a black bag and keep them in the dark room called aribration. No juries. No media members. No members of the public allowed.

    The NFL knows that it will lose in court, as it usually does.

    No judge – or member of the public – should buy the nonsense being sold by the NFL lawyers.

  6. purplengold says: Jan 26, 2012 8:22 PM

    “No, it should go to our complaint department instead. Go out of the office, take a left, down the hall, and then out the window.”

  7. kisstherings says: Jan 26, 2012 8:26 PM

    Who cares. What a Super Bowl Buzz kill you are.

  8. harrisonhits2 says: Jan 26, 2012 8:31 PM

    ‘The NFL has the best equipment and medical staff available”

    Yes, the best medical staff that money can buy to place the interests of the teams and league above that of their patients.

  9. johntonioholmes says: Jan 26, 2012 9:33 PM

    When I read the headline, I thought this:

    “The league’s effort comes from an obsession by corporate interests to avoid the jury system, which remains one of the few entities over which the rich and powerful have little or no power to avoid losing a chunk of their riches. And so if there’s an avenue for diverting the process from a group of ordinary citizens, whom many of the one percent regard as too simple or emotional to properly and fairly apply the law when confronted with sympathetic plaintiffs and affluent defendants, it’s worth the extra money to try to position the proceedings to be resolved by an arbitrator, who will be far less inclined to be influenced by the human consequences of concussions and far more inclined to apply the letter of the law when assessing the various rights and responsibilities.”

    I can’t believe you wrote the exact thing that I was thinking.

  10. tonypsfl says: Jan 26, 2012 11:45 PM

    Bring a lubricant with you on this one, NFL. Maybe if you relax it won’t hurt so bad…..

  11. bleed4philly says: Jan 26, 2012 11:55 PM

    This will probably go on for another 10 years until the next CBA is negotiated. I honestly don’t know what’s up with all the extra gear. Professional Rugby players don’t where much and end up ok.

  12. 6thsense79 says: Jan 27, 2012 4:58 AM

    I’m confused as to how the NFL can argue that the CBA should decide whether or not former players should be allowed to sue the league individually. All during the run up to the new CBA I got the impression from the Union and ownership that former players were no longer a part of the player’s union thus didn’t have any say in the negotiations.

    If former players are not viewed as part of the union and have no say in CBA negotiations how can the league argue that they are bound by the rules of the CBA or even past CBA?

    Lots of gray there but maybe someone smarter than me can help explain.

  13. jimmysee says: Jan 27, 2012 7:11 AM

    Why aren’t these workers comp claims?

    Injuries on the job.

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