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 investigating the claims, initiating the lawsuits, responding to motions, conducting discovery, prosecuting class certification in [Arrington v. NCAA], proffering very qualified experts to support the claims, restricting the settlement to fully address Judge Lee’s concerns, and otherwise vigorously prosecuting the cases on behalf of a class of approximately four million current and former student-athletes.”

Not all athletes are happy with the settlement, and some argue it does nothing to help them with medical bills from the neurological damage they suffered. Since November, the NCAA has offered to mediate personal injury claims by nine plaintiffs, and former football player Adrian Arrington has previously objected to the settlement. Adrian was the first to sue the NCAA in 2011 for concussions he sustained during his career at Eastern Illinois University.

The fee request also seeks an expense award of $750,000, which attorney’s claim is a fraction of actual expenses. The attorneys are also seeking incentive awards of $5,000 for three plaintiffs in the initial action, and $2,500 for 21 class representatives.

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