The Philadelphia federal judge charged with presiding over the hundreds of brain injury-related lawsuits against the National Football League said she will likely have a decision in less than two months as to whether the litigation should move forward in court or be sent to an arbitrator. The players are asking for the cases to move forward in court while the NFL is fighting for a labor arbitrator to preside over the matter.
In their lawsuits, the former players allege that NFL officials knew that repeated concussions were putting the players at risk of permanent brain injuries, but the league did little to nothing to protect them. Many of the players say they now suffer from permanent brain damage because of the concussions they suffered while playing in the NFL. The NFL has denied any wrongdoing.
In the past two years, more than 4,800 former players have been named as plaintiffs in 242 individual lawsuits. When all of the plaintiff family members and spouses are added, it amounts to more than 5,800 individual plaintiffs. Because of the massive litigation, the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation ordered numerous cases to be coordinated and consolidated in Eastern District of Pennsylvania and overseen by a veteran U.S. District Court judge.
The judge’s first task will be to decide whether the litigation has any place in the tort system in the first place. Attorneys for the NFL say no, and that the matter is actually a labor dispute that should be dealt with by an arbitrator according to the players’ employment contracts. But attorneys for the players say the matter falls outside of the players’ contracts and should be heard in federal court.
Back in April, the federal judge heard oral arguments from attorneys representing both sides of the case after the NFL filed a motion to dismiss the litigation in its entirety. In her recent announcement, the judge said she plans to issue her decision on July 22.
Source: The Pennsylvania Record, “Judge overseeing NFL concussion MDL expected to rule on dismissal motion July 22,” Jon Campisi, June 12, 2013