Last month, a Philadelphia federal judge surprised many when she ordered former professional football players and the National Football League to attend mediation in the lawsuits over concussion-related brain injuries.
The lawsuit involves more than 4,000 former players who say that NFL knew of the dangers but failed to protect them from sustaining serious brain injuries during their careers, which caused permanent brain damage.
The NFL has denied the charges in the lawsuits and demanded that the matter be settled by an arbitrator according to the players’ collective bargaining agreements.
It was expected that the Philadelphia judge was either going to rule that the lawsuits could go to trial — as the players wished — or be turned over to an arbitrator — as the NFL wished — but the judge opted for mediation instead.
Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution that involves parties to a lawsuit sitting down with a neutral third-party mediator in effort to negotiate a settlement. Mediation can be a favorable alternative to litigation because, if successful, it often significantly reduces court fees.
The U.S. District Court judge ordered the parties to attend mediation in effort to see if “consensual resolution is possible.” A retired federal judge was appointed as the mediator and a report must be issued on the progress of the mediation by Sept. 3.
Legal experts say that the mediation order could mean that the parties were already working towards settlement. However, a lawyer who specializes in brain injury lawsuits said an out of court settlement through mediation could have its drawbacks.
For one, settlements reached through mediation are confidential, which means the facts surrounding the case could be kept from the public. The brain injury lawyer said this would deprive the public from important information on sports and concussions.
At this point, it’s too soon to tell if the case will be successfully resolved through mediation.
Source: USA TODAY, “Judge orders mediation on NFL concussion suits,” Gary Mihoces, July 11, 2013