A Marathon, Not a Sprint: NCAA Concussion Settlement Revised Again

A long awaited settlement for NCAA concussion litigation has been revised, once again. The NCAA released the proposal in an effort to address shortfalls in previous settlement plans. The revised settlement, if approved by the court, provides injured student-athletes the option to sue their individual colleges, but only on behalf of players of a single sport. Additionally, the proposal removes a provision that would allow the administrator handling medical monitoring claims to pursue reimbursement from former athletes’ private insurers. The NCAA and lead plaintiffs agreed to the proposed settlement on Friday, May 20, 2016.

The previous iteration of the settlement, released on January 26, 2016, received preliminary approval by U.S. District Judge John Z. Lee. At that time, the NCAA offered a $75 million settlement for current and former student-athletes. Judge Lee, however, modified the settlement, subject to NCAA approval, proposing that the NCAA and member schools are not safe from personal injury claims brought against an individual school. Further, the court suggested additional publicity would be necessary to promote the availability of concussion monitoring programs. The NCAA had to approve the modifications.

The settlement revisions are an attempt to remedy concerns identified by Judge Lee at the time he granted preliminary approval of the January settlement proposal. The court’s main concern was that the settlement was too broad, preventing valid personal injury claims from being litigated. Although the new settlement provides venues for injured athletes to make claims outside of the settlement, the NCAA limited suits to players of a single sport. According to the NCAA, “A bodily injury class consisting of student-athletes who played multiple sports at a single member school would be too broad.”

The modifications are the only revisions to the settlement. The previously approved $75 million was resubmitted with the proposal. Under the terms, the NCAA agrees to contribute $70 million toward a medical monitoring fund for current and former student-athlete neurological screening. The neurological screenings are intended to examine brain functions and brain damage. An additional $5 million will be set aside for concussion related research.

The revised settlement came after former San Diego State football player Anthony Nichols dropped his opposition to the settlement. Nichols objected to previous settlements because it did not provide any monetary remedy for athletes injured while playing. Objectors remain fearful that the $75 million will benefit future athletes, leaving current and former athletes to pay for medical treatment of concussion-related injuries. The class wants the NCAA to pay for medical treatment.

The settlement revisions require approval from Judge Lee.

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