NCAA injury settlement: Judge Approves NCAA Settlement

Published: January 27, 2016

NCAA injury settlement: Judge Approves NCAA Settlement, A federal judge granted initial approval of a settlement Tuesday between the N.C.A.A. and a group of athletes who sued the association over its handling of head injuries. The agreement, which still needs N.C.A.A. approval, does not contain cash settlements for the plaintiffs in the proposed class-action suit, but mandates a new national protocol for head injuries sustained by players.

The proposed settlement, which was first submitted in July 2014, calls for a $70 million monitoring fund for former athletes, which would allow them the opportunity to receive neurological screenings to examine brain functions and any signs of brain damage like chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease. Under the settlement, the N.C.A.A. would also prevent athletes who have sustained a concussion from returning to a game or practice that day.

United States District Judge John Z. Lee did request one notable change from the original settlement: that the N.C.A.A. not have complete immunity against class-action concussion litigation. Lee’s terms for approval include a provision that would still allow athletes at a particular college to sue their university and the N.C.A.A. as a class.

The N.C.A.A. issued a statement saying it was still reviewing Lee’s terms.

“After all the wait, we’ve basically got 96 percent of what we expected to get,” said Steve Berman, the lead counsel for the plaintiffs. “It’s understandable, with a settlement this big, there could be some tweaking, but we’re happy with the result.”

Adrian Arrington, a former football player at Eastern Illinois University, was the first to sue the N.C.A.A. over concussions in 2011, claiming negligence related to the handling of several head injuries he sustained in his career.

Several similar cases were filed and then consolidated. Arrington announced that he opposed the proposed settlement last year, arguing that individual athletes should receive compensation.

The N.F.L. settled a concussion suit with former players that included millions of dollars to help those with one of several neurological diseases.

Regardless of the N.C.A.A.’s decision on Lee’s terms, Jay Edelson, a plaintiffs’ lawyer who opposed the initial settlement, said he was now looking into filing a new round of class-action suits against the N.C.A.A. and individual universities over their handling of concussions.

“We are going to get real relief for struggling athletes, and the court has now said filing class-action suits on a school-by-school basis is the proper way to do that,” he said.

A status hearing for the case is scheduled Thursday in Chicago.

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