Former Player Objects to Class Counsel Fee Request in NCAA Deal
Despite a final approval on the settlement for the class of former football players’ suit against the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) for its handling of concussions, there is still a dispute over how much the class counsel should get for attorney fees. Class counsel requested $15 million for attorney fees, but a former college football player, Anthony Nichols, told the judge that the counsel should not get more than $8 million. Nichols based this number off of the fact that the initial settlement had to be altered twice before it was approved.
The settlement agreement was preliminarily approved in July 2016 for $75 million. Of that settlement, $70 million would go toward a fund for medical monitoring to screen the current and former NCAA student-athletes involved in the suit for damage from concussions, amounting to about 4 million players. The other $5 million is to go to research on concussions that would not be done without the contribution. Nichols claimed this deal was reached despite the class counsel’s repeated failures of creating a deal the court would approve and that the final settlement was created from revisions that were forced upon counsel after the failed agreements. Nichols also argued the class counsel should not include the time spent on reworking the rejected settlements in their tally of hours spent on the case.
Class counsel claimed the fees were appropriate due to their litigation of the case and the hours spent on the case which included discovery, uncovering critical evidence, deposing the NCAA’s top officials, and working with leading experts. Further, Nichols himself asked for $6 million from the settlement due to his objections of the first two settlement offers leading to an addition of about $50 million to the settlement. Class counsel plan to file their own objection to Nichols’ request for fees. Many of the issues surrounding the approval of the settlement involved how players would be screened. Nichols objected to the first settlement proposed because there were too few locations for monitoring and it released the athletes’ personal injury claims. Nichols objected to the second proposed settlement because it still resulted in athletes’ waiving their personal injury claims. Eventually a final settlement deal was reached, but Nichols still noted in his objection to the attorney fees that there are still questions on whether monitoring is worth doing at all because of new information about concussions and their link to chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). In a recent study it was found that 87 percent of former football players had CTE, which Nichols argued shows that what former players need is treatment for their brain injuries. Nichols claimed that class counsel abandoned the claims for brain injury treatment in favor of making former players jump through hoops to be screened for CTE.