NCAA, Colleges Hit With New Deluge of Concussion Lawsuits (1)

Jan. 28, 2019, 3:50 PMUpdated: Jan. 28, 2019, 6:09 PM

A new wave of football concussion lawsuits charges the NCAA didn’t protect student-athletes from later-life brain injuries, and also targets dozens of private universities.

Dozens of lawsuits were filed over the past four days, and several dozen more cases are expected to be filed soon. The cases target schools such as Cornell University, the University of Southern California, West Virginia University, the University of Virginia, Johns Hopkins University, and Lehigh University.

More than 200 additional cases are on the way, a spokesman for two law firms representing the former players told Bloomberg Law Jan. 28.

The complaints, which join 110 other class complaints against the National Collegiate Athletic Association and football conferences, could affect as many as 300,000 former football players at 300 different colleges, according to Nicholas Gaffney, a spokesman for two law firms that brought the cases.

Edelson PC in Chicago and Raizner Slania LLP in Houston filed the recent suits on behalf of former players.

“They lied,” plaintiffs’ counsel Jay Edelson said Jan. 28. “They knew the risk of the concussions and hid that from the players.”

Edelson said the hundreds of lawsuits filed so far revealed the scope of the problem.

“I previously didn’t understand, before speaking with our clients, how big an issue this is, and how many lives were ruined,” Edelson said.

The latest filings, which are likely to be folded into national multi-district concussion litigation pending in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, are only the leading edge of more than 200 new class action lawsuits to be filed, Edelson said.

All of the suits contend the NCAA and colleges knew about the debilitating long-term dangers of head traumas in the sport, “but recklessly disregarded this information to protect the very profitable business of ‘amateur’ college football.”

Unlike earlier-filed lawsuits that name only the NCAA and football conferences, however, many of the new filings also target private colleges unprotected by the sovereign immunity that often shields public universities from such suits.

The NCAA didn’t respond to requests for comment.

But when the first class complaints were filed in 2016, Donald Remy, the NCAA’s chief legal officer, told Bloomberg Law the NCAA “does not believe that these complaints present legitimate legal arguments and expects that they will be disposed of early by the court.”

“The allegations made by the plaintiffs in these lawsuits remain very much in dispute and we vehemently deny the allegations and claims,” Stacey Osburn, the NCAA’s public relations director, told Bloomberg Law recently.

(Updated with additional reporting.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Steven M. Sellers in Washington at ssellers@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jo-el J. Meyer at jmeyer@bloomberglaw.com

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