NHL Wants to Keep Wrongful Death Suit in the Federal Courts

On January 20, 2017, the NHL opposed sending the wrongful death suit of deceased hockey player Derek Boogaard back to state court. The lawsuit began in 2013, and was initially filed in Cook County, Illinois, but was removed by the NHL to the federal courts shortly after. Boogaard’s family alleges he developed a painkiller addiction and permanent brain damage from injuries sustained as an “enforcer” for the New York Rangers and Minnesota Wild. Boogaard died of a painkiller overdose in 2011, and was prescribed as much many as 150 pills in a 16 day period. The family of Boogaard has argued that part of their claims are state law claims, and that the case should be remanded to the state courts. The NHL has opposed their motion, and argued that ...
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Ex-NFL Players Who Previously Opted Out of NFL Concussion Settlement Call Audible and Attempt to Rejoin Settlement

Four former players have attempted to rejoin the league’s potential $1 billion concussion settlement after they previously opted-out to challenge the settlement in the federal courts. Ralph Williams, Lex Hilliard, Brian Schaefering, and Charles Mincy were part of a group of more than two-hundred ex-NFL players who opted out of the settlement in November, 2014. The Third Circuit affirmed the settlement on April 18, 2016, despite arguments from the players that the deal should leave open the possibility that a test could be developed to diagnose CTE in living players, as CTE is currently only diagnosed posthumously. The Supreme Court announced it would not hear an appeal to the decision on December 12, 2016. The four players request to rejoin the litigation came after the Supreme Court’s decision to deny ...
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Student-Athlete Attorneys Look to Score in NCAA Concussion Settlement Agreement

On January 13, 2017, attorneys filed a request for $15 million in fees in an Illinois federal court after an early approval of a $75 million settlement by the NCAA for concussion-related health concerns for NCAA student-athletes. The attorneys argued the fee request is reasonable compensation due to the novelty of the case, and their 18,000 hours of attorney-time invested. A hearing is scheduled for May for final approval of the settlement. The multidistrict litigation included an estimated four million former NCAA student-athletes, and $70 million of the settlement will be used to set-up a medical monitoring fund for the former athletes. The other $5 million of the settlement will be used to fund head trauma research. The attorney’s motion stated, “[p]laintiffs and their attorneys invested considerable time and expense ...
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The NCAA Continues to Block Student-Athletes From Transferring Universities: Protecting Fair Play or Violating Antitrust Laws?

Former Northern Illinois University football player, Peter Deppe, filed suit against the NCAA in which he alleged that the NCAA’s “year-in-residence” rule violates antitrust laws. NIU recruited Deppe as a walk-on punter, but designated him as a red shirt player for his first year. In August 2014, the special teams coach told Deppe that beginning in January 2015, he would receive an athletic-scholarship and take over as the starting punter. However, the special teams coach transferred schools, and NIU’s head coach informed Deppe that he would not receive the scholarship. Also, NIU signed another punter, reducing Deppe’s future chances of receiving an athletic-scholarship or achieving playing time. Deppe obtained an official letter of release from NIU to transfer to the University of Iowa. The University of Iowa conditioned Deppe’s transfer ...
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Ole Miss Persuades Tax Court Judge to Slash Tax Bill in Half, a Tax Victory for Athletic Programs

Ole Miss successfully convinced a tax court judge to reduce the university’s tax liability by 50 percent with respect to revenue the school brought in by sending its coaches to Nike and Coca-Cola sponsored functions. In August 2015, the IRS notified the university that the income received for these appearances were taxable under IRC sections 511-513, because it constituted “unrelated business income” for exempt organizations. Ole Miss responded by filing a petition with the tax court disputing its tax liability in late 2015, arguing the university coaches’ appearances at such functions were conditions of its sponsorship and were directly related to the school’s tax-exempt purposes, which should have insulated it from tax liability. As a result of Ole Miss’s victory, coach appearances that bring in sponsor payments are shielded from ...
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Sexual Abuse Suit Brought by 18 Athletes Names MSU and USA Gymnastics as Defendants

Eighteen women have filed suit naming Michigan State University, USA Gymnastics, and the Twistars gymnastics group as defendants with regard to the actions of Dr. Larry Nassar, an elite orthopedic doctor who allegedly sexually assaulted several women over the course of twenty years in the guise of medical treatment. Specifically, the suit alleges that by ignoring the women’s persistent claims, MSU, USA Gymnastics, and Twistars effectively perpetuated the abuse perpetrated by Nassar for two decades. Twistar’s owner, John Geddert, chose not to take action after he received a sexual abuse complaint regarding Dr. Nassar in 1997. In addition, complaints of abuse were brought to MSU’s attention as far back as 1999, but the university failed to take any steps to remedy the problem. Its eventual investigation in 2014 of new ...
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Pennsylvania Appeals Court Denies NCAA’s Efforts to Appeal Negligence Finding in NCAA Death Suit

The NCAA’s efforts to appeal a Pennsylvania court’s finding that the NCAA was negligent in failing to require Division II schools screen for sickle-cell trait were denied on December 28, 2016. The case arose after Jack Hill Jr., a Slippery Rock University student, died following a high-intensity basketball practice due to sickle-cell trait complications. Jack Jr.’s parents, Jack and Cheryl Hill, filed suit against the University and the NCAA, arguing the university’s failure to administer sickle-trait testing prior to allowing them to participate in athletics and the NCAA’s failure to require Division II schools to do so was negligent. Initially, the NCAA was dismissed from the suit based on the idea that the applicable “increased risk of harm” tort required an affirmative act, but the PA appeals court disagreed, noting ...
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Efforts of UPenn Athletes to Obtain Employee Status Denied Once Again

Following the dismissal of a suit brought by UPenn athletes seeking compensation as employees under the FLSA, the athletes are arguing that the Seventh Circuit’s reliance on a 1992 Seventh Circuit case, which rejected Fair Labor Standards claims brought by a prisoner, essentially placed them on similar legal footing as prison laborers. Though the athletes are aware fighting for employee status as college athletes is far-fetched based on the courts’ consistent denial of such claims, the UPenn athletes’ argument rests on the proposition that they did not get a fair stab at discovery, and they should have, which places them in a similar legal status as prisoners. The case the court relied on in its dismissal was Vanskike v. Peters, in which the court focused on the “economic reality” of ...
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NCAA Faces Another Concussion Class Action Over Breach of Protective Duty

The NCAA faces another potential class action after several former college football players filed suit in Indiana federal court attacking the organization’s concussion protocol, or lack thereof. Some might say the organization should have seen it coming in light of the modified $75 million dollar medical monitoring settlement the NCAA reached with players last May. The original settlement was modified out of concerns that the settlement would preclude players from bringing individual personal injury claims based on contract principles, and left open the possibility of athletes suing their individual colleges on behalf of a single sport. And that is just what college athletes have been doing ever since. The group of former players alleges that the NCAA breached the contracts embedded in the players’ agreements by failing to protect and ...
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Former NHL Players Bringing Concussion Suit Ask Court to Unseal Concussion Class Certification Docs

Several former NHL players brought a concussion suit against the National Hockey League in 2013 based on allegations that they have all experienced long-term neurological issues as a direct result of concussions sustained while playing for the league; a suit precipitated by a settlement between the NFL and thousands of former players over similar allegations. The players claim the league neglected to provide adequate protection and information re concussion dangers and the possible repercussions. One of the players’ experts opined that the average NHL player sustains 1-3 blows to the head with the potential to cause permanent brain damage in every game, and that this was being conservative. In December of 2016, the players initiated a class certification of players qualifying for medical monitoring and those who have been diagnosed ...
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