NFL Concussion Litigation Settlement Results in a Flurry of Objections

The five-year NFL concussion litigation finally came to a conclusion when a settlement was reached, however, while the court has given final approvals regarding several objections and opening the registration for all class members, lingering issues still remain regarding the allocation of attorneys’ fees, as counsel for thousands of class members are scrambling to take their fair share. The concussion litigation settlement established a bottomless fund over a sixty-five year period to compensate a class of over 20,000 former NFL players. The deal offered payments ranging from $1.5 million to $5 million for conditions connected to traumatic brain injuries, including dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. Lead class attorneys on the case from Seeger Weiss LLP and Anapol Weiss filed a petition, in which they sought $112.5 million for compensation ...
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Former NIU Punter Appeals Validity of Transfer Rule to the Seventh Circuit

Peter Deppe, a former punter for Northern Illinois University (NIU), has filed a notice of appeal that challenges an Indiana Federal Court’s dismissal of his antitrust claim regarding the NCAA rule forcing student-athletes who transfer universities to sit out for a year before returning to play for the new school. As background, Deppe was originally recruited as a walk-on punter by NIU in 2014. Deppe’s complaint alleged that he was redshirted and told by the coaches that he would receive a scholarship and become the starting punter in 2015. However, Deppe’s scholarship never materialized, as the special teams coach switched universities. Deppe was given permission to seek a transfer. The University of Iowa told Deppe that it wanted him, but conditioned this offer on his ability to obtain eligibility for ...
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University of Richmond Student-Athletes Suspended for Wagering Reinstated

The University of Richmond announced that it will reinstate the five baseball players who were suspended this season for potential NCAA violations, as it now appears that the players wagered on sports games—not fantasy sports—as initially reported. NCAA rules prohibit student-athletes from engaging in any “sports wagering activities or provid[ing] information to individuals involved or associated with any types of sports wagering activities.”  This may include “internet sports wagering” and pay-to-play “fantasy leagues.” Student-athletes found in violation of these rules are ineligible from playing time for at least one year from the date the violation occurred, or a minimum of one season, according to the NCAA Division I Handbook. In the present case, the University did not specify the exact wrongs allegedly committed by the players.  Simply, it said that ...
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Former NFL Agent Pleads Guilty to Bribing Former UNC Players

Former NFL agent, Terry Watson, pleaded guilty to 13 counts of athlete-agent inducement for providing nearly $24,000 in cash to former UNC and current NFL players Robert Quinn, Marvin Austin, and Greg Little in 2010. Watson entered his plea deal on Monday, April 17, which concluded the more than three-year-old felony charges. The terms of his plea deal include 30 months of probation, a $5000 fine, and a suspended six to eight month jail sentence. A felony obstruction of justice charge for not providing records sought by authorities was dismissed as a part of the plea deal. Watson was one of five people who faced charges in the case. Watson’s plea deal came hours after his friend, Patrick Mitchell Jones, agreed to testify against him as part of a deferred-prosecution ...
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NHL Concussion Litigation Documents Ordered to be Made Public: Judge Unseals 28 Documents

A U.S. Federal Judge has unsealed certain documents in the long-running lawsuit over the National-Hockey League’s handling of concussions sustained by players, as the public benefit and need for the information outweighs any of the NHL’s interests in keeping the documents confidential. The judge’s order required that one of the documents, an internal email regarding fighting and rules, to be kept confidential, because the league’s privacy interest in the notes and the prejudice that it would face if the notes were released outweighed the public’s need for disclosure. However, the judge’s order made 28 other documents attached to the class certification motion, which were designated confidential at the time, available to the public. The players argued that the documents must be made public, as they are judicial records. Notably, the ...
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Former NFL Players Object to Class Attorneys’ Fees from the Concussion Settlement Fund

The former NFL players and their families seeking to recover from an uncapped NFL concussion litigation have objected to an additional five percent set-aside sought by the class attorneys on the case. As previously reported, in April 2015, the NFL entered into a settlement agreement with almost 22,000 former players, which established a 65-year span to compensate the class members. The deal offers payments ranging from $1.5 million to $5 million for each player, or the player’s estate, who suffered from a serious degenerative condition in connection with a traumatic brain injury, including Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and dementia. The lead law firms on the case, Seeger Weiss and Anapol Weiss, filed a petition for attorneys’ fees in the amount of $112.5 million for common benefit work. Notably, the firms ...
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Connecticut Federal Court Denies WWE’s Motion for Summary Judgement Over Lengthy Briefs

A Connecticut Federal Judge has denied World Wresting Entertainment, Inc.’s motion for summary judgment regarding two former wrestlers’ claims that the long-term injuries associated with repeated head traumas were hidden from them, as both sides submitted briefs that were too long. As background, former WWE wrestlers, Evan Singleton and Vito LoGrasso sued the WWE in January 2015 for the WWE’s alleged concealment of the long-term health risks associated with repeated head injuries, and further, mislead wrestlers into performing while injured — worsening their injuries. In March 2016, three other former wrestlers had their cases dismissed, as they had not wrestled after the WWE allegedly learned about the long-term degenerative neurological diseases associated with multiple concussions in 2005. Singleton’s and LoGrasso’s fraudulent omission claim was allowed to proceeds because they wrestled ...
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NCAA Argues O’Bannon Win Insufficient for a Grant of $42 Million in Attorneys’ Fees

The NCAA has moved for the Ninth Circuit to deny a $42 million attorney’s fees request regarding the underlying litigation over rules barring student-athletes from receiving compensation for their names, images, and likeness, as the NCAA alleged the win was only partial, and thus, such a large award is inappropriate. As background, a California district court issued an injunction, which prevented the NCAA from capping student-athletes financial aid amounts below the full cost of attendance, and that student-athletes could receive up to $5,000 per year for use of their name, image, and likeness. The cash payments are deferred until after graduation. While in 2015, the Ninth Circuit upheld the injunction, it reversed the lower court’s ruling that granted deferred payments. Both parties moved for the United States Supreme Court to ...
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Former ESPN Announcer’s Wrongful Termination Suit Removed Back to State Court

A California Federal Judge ruled that former ESPN announcer Doug Adler’s wrongful termination suit, in which he claimed two executives and the network misinterpreted his “guerilla” comment about Venus Williams’ game play, will head back to state court, as ESPN failed to prove the executives’ Connecticut residence for invoking diversity jurisdiction. The dispute arose when Adler used the word “gorilla” while Venus Williams was on the court during the 2017 Australian Open. Adler was forced to make an on-air apology the following day, before being fired one day after that. In return, he filed suit against ESPN Productions, Inc., Mark Gross, Senior Vice President of Production, and Jamie Reynolds, Vice President of Production, for wrongful termination of employment, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, intentional ...
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Supreme Court Grants Cheerleading Apparel Manufacturer’s Request: Uniform’s Decorative Elements are Copyrightable

The U.S. Supreme Court held that a cheerleading uniform’s decorative elements may be protected under copyright law — a ruling aimed at providing some resolution regarding the disagreement over when these types of designs are eligible for protection under U.S. copyright law. As background, in 2010, Varsity Brands, Inc., the country’s largest cheerleading supplier, accused one of its rivals, Star Athletica, of copying the key elements of its uniform’s design, including stripes, chevrons, and other graphic elements that Varsity had registered with the Copyright Office. In response, Star swung back, arguing that the designs were too useful to be afforded copyright protections. In 2014, a federal judge ruled in favor of Star, holding that the design and function of the uniform were integrally intertwined, and thus, could not be separated ...
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