In 2011, former Atlanta Falcons safety Ray Easterling filed a lawsuit against the National Football League. Mr. Easterling, who passed in 2012, would later be joined by more than 4,500 former players, making the lawsuit the one of the largest in the history of brain injury litigation. Since 2011, the former players and the National Football League have attempted to reach a settlement agreement.
Before any settlement can take effect, judicial approval is required. Recently, a federal judge in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania signed an order denying approval for a $765 million settlement, stating that she was concerned that the settlement did not offer enough money so that all of the injured football players could receive just compensation. However, the denial was without prejudice and the parties will continue attempting to work towards a settlement.
Background on the NFL Brain Injury Lawsuit
The NFL brain injury litigation is what is known as multi-district litigation (MDL), which is when several lawsuits from different jurisdictions across the country are combined in one court. In this instance, the litigation is being heard in the United States Federal Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
Although there are several different lawsuits in the MDL, the allegations are similar. The players allege that the NFL willfully misled them over the over the long-term impact of head injuries. Although the NFL formed a committee to investigate the dangers of minor or mild traumatic brain injuries in 1994, the committee rejected evidence linking brain trauma to chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a condition with symptoms such as memory loss, dementia, and depression. The NFL did not warn players over the dangers of concussions until 2010.
For its part, the NFL has insisted that many of the grievances are subject to private arbitration clauses in the player’s contracts and do not belong in court. The NFL has also made several other legal arguments:
- Reasonable standard of care – that the NFL was not negligent with regard to player safety;
- Assumption of risk – that the players knew that concussions were ordinary in football and accepted this risk; and
- Contributory/comparative negligence – that the players contributed to their risk and were negligent because they did not promptly report concussions.
Maryland Brain Injury Law
The NFL brain injury lawsuit is an example of how the law can offer help for persons who suffer from brain injuries as a result of the negligence of another person or business. Brain injuries can occur in a variety of circumstances. Like the NFL lawsuit, brain injuries can occur in sports such as football, baseball, hockey, and cheerleading. However, brain injuries can also result from other causes:
- Car accidents;
- Blows to the head;
- Falls or accidents; and
- Physical violence.
In Maryland, the most common legal claim for a traumatic brain injury will be a claim of negligence. Negligence can occur, for example, in a slip and fall, a car accident, or a sports injury. In each of these situations, a Maryland resident is owed a duty of care. For example, drivers on the road owe a duty of care to each other to drive safely, a store owner owes a duty to keep floors clean from slippery spills, and a school owes a duty to student athletes to reasonably protect them from injuries. Establishing that there was a duty and that the duty was breached is often the most difficult element of a negligence claim. If you believe that you have suffered a brain injury as a result of negligence, an experienced Maryland personal injury attorney can advise you about how Maryland brain injury law can help you.
In order to succeed on a claim for negligence, the injured person must also establish the breach caused the damages that the injured person has suffered. However, Maryland is a contributory negligence state, which means that if an injured person negligently contributed to their own injury, they will not be able to recover damages for a traumatic brain injury.
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