NFL Brain Injury Settlement put on Hold: San Diego Attorneys of Mitchell & Shea Support Judge's Decision

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Personal Injury Lawyers Brian Mitchell and Patrick Shea both see the judge's decision as a positive sign if it leads to a safer playing field and a fair settlement for players who suffered brain injuries while in the NFL.

Mitchell & Shea: Southern California Personal Injury, Workers' Compensation and Immigration Law

The judge in this case is simply trying to ensure that catastrophically injured people get fair treatment. The costs to care for someone with a neurological disorder or the effects of traumatic brain injury should not be underestimated

As a highly successful personal injury law firm in California that has represented many injured NFL players, Mitchell & Shea has been focused on the latest developments in the $765 million dollar settlement between the NFL and more than 4,500 former NFL players. The players sued the league over issues related to concussions and brain injuries. They argued that they were not informed or protected effectively enough while playing in the NFL. The settlement was announced in August. The judge presiding over the settlement, Anita B. Brody of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, recently put the settlement on hold until more specific details are disclosed.

Patrick Shea of Mitchell & Shea says "the NFL seems to have made a good faith effort to provide for these players and to invest in making safety a higher priority. However, Judge Brody has identified some significant problems with the settlement. The settlement should provide fair compensation to players, provide for extensive research into head injury issues and support education efforts. $765 million may sound like a lot of money but, realistically, it may not accomplish what is necessary."

Several players echo Shea's argument. In fact, some players have refused to support the decision to settle and have continued with their own lawsuits. According to multiple media reports, including an October, 2013 article in the Guardian, many players want a larger amount of money to treat injuries and potential injuries than provided in the settlement. For instance, immediately after the settlement was announced in August, "four former NFL players filed suit in federal court in New Orleans claiming they suffered brain damage from football injuries, and the league withheld information about the effects of long-term damage from concussions" ("NFL's concussions settlement deal is a long way from the end of the story"). This is just one example of many other similar suits. How those suits will be impacted by Judge Brody's recent rejection of the settlement remains to be seen.

"Judge Brody is asking for more detail," Brian Mitchell of Mitchell & Shea said after hearing the news. "She wants to know, exactly, how this money will be spent, what it will support and whether or not it truly is enough money."

The New York Times story, "Judge rejects N.F.L. settlement, for now," published on January 14, 2014 includes this quote from Judge Brody about her decision: "In the absence of additional supporting evidence, I have concerns about the fairness, reasonableness and adequacy of the settlement." As a result of the judge's concerns, the NFL must now provide more details about how the money will be distributed. Initially, approximately $675 million was set aside to pay monetary awards and $75 million for medical testing and monitoring. $10 million was directed to research into traumatic brain injury, concussions and the link with Alzheimer's, Lou Gehrig's disease, Parkinson's, chronic traumatic encephalopathy, and other neurological disorders.

"This case has significant implications for other pending lawsuits as well. The NHL, the NCAA, sports equipment manufacturers, individual schools, for-profit youth sports leagues, the spotlight is on all of them regarding the issue of concussions," Mitchell continues. "And the spotlight should be on them. If players are not provided the safest possible environment to practice and play their games, someone must be held accountable. Perhaps these lawsuits will lead to increased safety on the field."

Shea reiterates the firm's support for the players. "We are always on the side of injury victims at Mitchell & Shea. Because we have so much experience in this field, we know that, many times, what looks like a large amount of money in a settlement turns out to be less than adequate. We always try to maximize the amount of compensation for our clients because medical bills, lost wages, lifestyle adaptations... the costs add up." He says that Mitchell & Shea often call upon life-care planners and specialized accountants to determine the exact amount of compensation necessary for an injury victim. "The NFL settlement shows how complex injury litigation can be, especially regarding head injuries. Some will worsen over time. Some will manifest years after an accident. The judge in this case is simply trying to ensure that catastrophically injured people get fair treatment. The costs to care for someone with a neurological disorder or the effects of traumatic brain injury should not be underestimated."

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Patrick Shea
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