NHL Reaches Non-Class Settlement In Concussion Lawsuit

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The NHL and attorneys for retired players reached a tentative settlement Monday. This is the biggest lawsuit against the league over concussions and other head injuries.

League Reaches Non-Class Settlement In Concussion Lawsuit

The lawsuit, consolidated in federal court in Minnesota and is by far the largest facing the league, has more than 100 former NHL players who accused the NHL of failing to better prevent head trauma or warn players of risks while promoting violent play that led to their injuries.

According to the settlement agreement released to the public by the NHL, the total value of the settlement is $16,910,800. Of that number, $6,996,000 will be distributed to 318 settling plaintiffs and settling unfiled claimants, which works out to an average of $22,000 per player.

Digging deeper

The NHL said it would not acknowledge any liability for any of the players’ claims. In English, they are saying they did nothing wrong that led to these injuries.

There will be no comment until after the opt-in period of 75 days for players. That means the league won’t talk to the media until all of these players made the decision to take the money or not.

Attorneys for the retired players say the settlement would include a cash payment for players who choose to participate; neurological testing and assessment for players paid for by the league; an administrative fund to pay for the costs; and up to $75,000 in medical treatment for players who test positive on two or more tests.

The settlement would also set up a “Common Good Fund” available to support retired players in need, including those who did not participate in the litigation. The fund would be valued at $2.5 million.

What if players don’t want to take the deal?

Players who choose not to participate may continue to pursue personal injury claims against the league. But under the terms of the settlement, the NHL has the option to terminate if all players who filed claims or retained counsel don’t participate. That means the NHL doesn’t have to deal with further litigation unless a certain amount of players refuse the settlement.

Attorneys with Minneapolis-based law firm Zimmerman Reed said they were pleased. The main goal of the lawsuit was to get retired players medical testing and treatment paid for by the NHL.

The settlement comes four months after a federal judge denied class-action status for the retired players. This was a significant victory for the league in the lawsuit filed in November 2013. U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson in July denied class-action status, citing “widespread differences” in state laws about medical monitoring that would “present significant case management difficulties.”

Analysis

Concussions in major sports have always been an issue. To some extent, the leagues are at fault for not monitoring such injuries as well as they could have years ago. Rulings like today’s can go a long way to forcing change and sparking a conversation about concussions. A conversation that leagues like the NFL and NHL did not want to have in years past.

Although the NHL did not admit to any wrongdoing in this lawsuit, by virtue of the settlement, one could say the league has shown their hand. Since such lawsuits like these have been taking place, the NHL has stepped up their concussion protocol in hopes to prevent further long-term injuries and lawsuits.

One can only hope that this movement continues to progress and that players with concussions will not have to seek outside treatment for their ailments.

It’s a small step, but to create social change, those steps are needed.

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