Judges’ Panel Creates New Multi-District Litigation for NCAA Concussion Cases
A panel of federal judges recently ruled that ten class-action lawsuits brought against the National Collegiate Athletic Association (“NCAA”) will be consolidated into a single multi-district litigation in Chicago. In essence, each suit alleges that the NCAA intentionally concealed the long term-risks of concussions sustained by student athletes in a variety of college sports. The consolidation follows in the wake of the recent $765 million settlement of the NFL’s concussion litigation, a nearly identical action brought against the league by over 4,500 former NFL alumni.
The judicial panel heard arguments on whether to combine the matters for the sake of judicial efficiency on December 5. The official ruling noted, “We find that these actions involve common questions of fact and that centralization in the Northern District of Illinois will serve the convenience of the parties and witnesses.” The panel did agree to sever the claims brought by one group of plaintiffs against helmet manufacturers Riddell, Inc. and Kranos Corp.; those actions will remain in Indianapolis where they were filed.
U.S. District for the Northern District of Illinois Judge John Z. Lee was appointed to preside over the MDL concussion matter. Currently, two plaintiffs’ requests for class certification are already awaiting Judge Lee’s decision.
The NCAA issued a statement denying that it was negligent through spokeswoman Stacey Osburn, opining “The association has specifically addressed the issue of head injuries through a combination of playing rules, equipment requirements, and medical best practices . . . . We continue to believe our policies and rules address student-athlete safety, and do not believe the individual or proposed class action allegations are appropriate.”