NCAA, concussion plaintiffs seek delay until July 14 to settle

Lawyers for the NCAA and nearly all of the class-action plaintiffs attached to the Adrian Arrington concussion litigation have requested until July 14 to finalize a settlement.

In a federal court filing Tuesday, the parties asked for a 60-day stay on court deadlines “due to the complexity of the issues and need for client approval.” The stay would also delay the court’s pending decision to approve the proposed structure of attorneys for the plaintiffs that was filed last week. 

Tuesday's filings initially said that one set of plaintiffs raising concerns about the settlement negotiations signed off on the 60-day stay. A later filing amended that and said it did not include the Anthony Nichols plaintiffs represented by Jay Edelson.

Edelson has expressed concern about the potential outcome of a settlement with the NCAA. Edelson is attempting to maintain personal-injury claims for the class that he says could be waived “with no corresponding relief given in exchange.”

Court filings last week showed that the NCAA reached a term sheet with the Arrington plaintiffs for a settlement in February. Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com reported Tuesday that the settlement is expected to include a medical monitoring fund of at least $70 million that would encompass all past and current college athletes.

Securing a class-action settlement that’s agreeable to numerous plaintiffs and the court can be a difficult task. 

Last fall, the NFL reached a proposed $765 million settlement in its concussion litigation. But U.S. District Judge Adrian Brody rejected the proposed settlement, expressing doubts about whether the amount is enough and sought documentation supporting the plan. Earlier this month, seven retired NFL players sought to intervene in the concussion litigation because they claim the proposed settlement doesn’t sufficiently represent the interests of all former players.

NCAA concussion litigation may be headed on a similar path as lawyers attempt to gain support for a settlement. The NCAA and the majority of the Arrington case’s plaintiffs want to reset a May 29 case management conference to a status conference.

Arrington attorney Steve Berman has said in court that Edelson is wrong and the law is “absolutely clear” that a personal-injury case cannot be certified as a class action. He cited a 1990s asbestos case that reached the Supreme Court.

Edelson contends that the Arrington lawsuit’s goals have changed in recent years. The initial suit filed in 2011 sought damages against the NCAA for concussion-related personal injuries, such as past medical expenses, lost earnings and compensatory damages.

According to filings, the NCAA informed the court on Feb. 5 that it was negotiating a broader settlement that would include a waiver of class members’ rights to pursue personal-injury claims as a group. 

Edelson wrote that his initial discussions with the NCAA “have lead to more broad discussions regarding potential relief to be made available to any personal injury class.” Since Edelson's update, another mediation session was held Monday.

Edelson lists eight other law firms supporting his efforts to negotiate over personal-injury claims. Among those on Edelson’s side is high-profile, personal-injury attorney Bob Clifford, whose Clifford Law Office has represented plane crash victims or families from nearly every major commercial airline crash in the U.S. over the past 30 years.

CBS Sports Senior Writer

Jon Solomon is CBS Sports's national college football writer. A former Alabama resident, he now lives in Maryland and also writes extensively on NCAA topics. Jon previously worked at The Birmingham News,... Full Bio

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