NCAA Likely to Face Another Round of Concussion Claims

On September 28, 2018, U.S. District Court Judge John Lee allowed two former Purdue University football players to proceed with most of their putative claims that the NCAA and the Big Ten Conference hid risks of repetitive brain trauma. The former football players, Michael Rose and Timothy Statton, are hoping to lead a class of former student-athletes who sustained head trauma while playing football for Purdue from 1952 to 2010.

Their case stems from the “NCAA $75 Million Settlement.” As we have previously reported, in July 2016, Judge Lee initially approved a $75 million settlement to compensate a nationwide-class of college-athletes who claimed that the NCAA hid the dangerous of repeated head trauma. Of the $75 million settlement, $70 million of the settlement is set to go to a Medical Monitoring Program, which will help treat and monitor the estimated 4.4 million current and former NCAA student-athletes who took part in contact and non-contact sports. The remaining $5 million is set to go to concussion research, changes to the NCAA’s guidelines, and a limited release.

However, when Judge Lee gave his preliminary approval of the settlement, he permitted various plaintiffs to pursue personal-injury claims, on a class-action basis, as long the lawsuits did not seek a nationwide class or a class consisting of athletes from more than one NCAA school. Simply put, Judge Lee allowed former student-athletes to file lawsuits against only the school where they played collegiate sports. Now schools like Florida, Purdue, Weber State, Pittsburg State, a Division II school in Kansas, and many more, are facing significant legal scrutiny regarding their previous handling of head injuries and trauma. So far, there have been 96 lawsuits filed involving schools from all three of the NCAA’s membership divisions. Nearly every case has named the NCAA and a conference as a defendant; however, when plaintiffs played at a private school, or certain public schools in Pennsylvania, the school also was named. When the plaintiffs played at a public school, the school was not named because of the potential difficulties related to suing state institutions.

Rose and Statton are just the latest example in the NCAA’s most recent round of concussion litigation. Most of Rose and Statton’s claims are based on breach of contract.
Rose, a former linebacker, and Statton, a former tight end, both played for Purdue in the late 1990’s. Now they each claim that while they were playing football they sustained multiple concussive injuries and, as a result, they now suffer from a range of symptoms that include depression, memory loss, and headaches. According to their claim, the NCAA and Big Ten never provided Purdue with any concussion-management protocols or policies, nor did they disclose the “overwhelming amount” of medical evidence they had about repetitive head trauma.

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