Multidistrict Lawsuit Combines Claims of Collegiate Athletes Seeking Damages for Concussion Injuries

A series of lawsuits allege that the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) breached a duty to protect and safeguard student-athletes against concussion injuries. The U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) consolidated multiple putative class action claims into a single action in an Illinois court to resolve any common issues. In re National Collegiate Athletic Assoc. Student-Athlete Concussion Injury Litigation, No. MDL-2492, mot. to transfer (N.D. Ill., Sep. 4, 2013). One of the consolidated lawsuits claims a class consisting of all current and former collegiate athletes suffering from concussion-related injuries, while the others only claim classes of former athletes. A track runner recently became the first active Division I-A athlete to bring such a claim against the NCAA, but dropped the lawsuit without prejudice shortly after filing it.

“Concussion” is a term applied to a range of traumatic brain injuries caused by a direct blow or jolt to the head. Athletes in “contact” sports, especially football, seem to be at high risk of concussions. An athlete who sustains a concussion might not even realize it right away. Symptoms may include cognitive problems, such as difficulty concentrating or thinking clearly; physical symptoms like headache, nausea, light sensitivity, and blurred vision; emotional changes like irritability and anxiety; and changes to one’s sleep cycle. A single concussion may not have a long-term impact if treated promptly. Multiple concussions can result in psychiatric disorders, memory loss, and heightened risk of dementia or Parkinson’s disease.

The JPML proceeding began when the plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit, Arrington v. NCAA, No. 11-cv-06356 (N.D. Ill.) sought to consolidate several other cases in a single district. The Arrington case had already completed discovery, so consolidation would improve the efficiency of all of the case, which allegedly had common questions of law and fact. The JPML approved the transfer of the other cases to the Northern District of Illinois in December 2013. As of mid-March, 2014, the JPML proceeding includes ten pending actions.

A new lawsuit filed in early March asserted a class action against the NCAA for medical monitoring. The plaintiff, a Division I-A track athlete, sought to add the lawsuit to the pending JPML matter. Tonn v. NCAA, No. 1:14-cv-01563, complaint (N.D. Ill., Mar. 5, 2014). The lawsuit claimed that the NCAA breached a duty of care to the class members by failing to adopt any sort of system for evaluating concussions or concussion treatment, and for failing adopt guidelines for concussion prevention developed at multiple meetings of the International Symposium on Concussion in Sport.

The plaintiff asserted causes of action for negligence, claiming that the defendant’s breach of its duty of care caused the class members’ injuries; and for medical monitoring, claiming that the cumulative effect of concussions and the potentially delayed onset of systems will require ongoing medical care and evaluation. The plaintiff dropped the complaint without prejudice several days after filing, but many of her claims are also found in the JPML proceeding.

Lebowitz & Mzhen’s personal injury attorneys help people in the Washington, DC area recover their just compensation when they have suffered injuries because of negligence or tortious conduct. For a free and confidential consultation, contact us today online or at (800) 654-1949.

More Blog Posts:

NFL Announces Tentative $765 Million Settlement in Concussion Class Action, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, September 5, 2013
Football Player Who Suffered Severe Head Injury Settles Lawsuit Against School District for $4.4 Million, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, May 16, 2012
The Death of a Young Baseball Player and the Lack of Statistics on Youth Sports Injuries, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, May 10, 2012

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