Judge to rule in July on NFL concussion suits

The Eagles' Brent Celek gets up after a play in Tampa last season. He left with a concussion but was back in action two games later. Former players are suing over long-term injuries.
The Eagles' Brent Celek gets up after a play in Tampa last season. He left with a concussion but was back in action two games later. Former players are suing over long-term injuries. (DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff)
Posted: June 12, 2013

A federal judge in Philadelphia will decide next month whether thousands of concussion-related lawsuits brought by former players against the NFL should proceed in open court or in private labor arbitration.

A single-sentence docket entry filed Monday for the cases said U.S. District Judge Anita Brody expected to rule July 22. After a high-profile April hearing, the ruling is likely to give one side the upper hand in what could be a multibillion-dollar dispute.

The league has asked Brody to dismiss the lawsuits, arguing that the former players' complaints amount to contract grievances that should be resolved by an arbitrator. Settled labor law says contracts preempt civil litigation.

The former players say the issue extends beyond their contracts because it involves an alleged fraud and cover-up by the league. They contend that NFL executives knew the dangers of head trauma but concealed them while promoting and glorifying the inherent violence of the sport.

They want damages for injured players as well as medical monitoring for veterans who have not yet shown signs of brain damage. The league has denied any wrongdoing, maintaining that all decisions on players' health and fitness to play rested solely with the individual teams and their medical staffs.

Brody's decision is likely to affect more than 4,000 complaints by former players and their widows, other relatives, and estates nationwide that have been flooding into federal court in Philadelphia since the cases were consolidated under one judge.

If the NFL fails on its so-called preemption argument, it has said it will move to have the suits thrown out, including arguing that many of them are beyond the civil statute of limitations for such claims.


Contact John P. Martin at 215-925-2649, at jmartin@phillynews.com or @JPMartinInky on Twitter.

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