NCPA: Lead plaintiff in NCAA concussion case opposes settlement

The lead plaintiff in the NCAA’s concussion lawsuit says he never agreed to a preliminary settlement before a federal judge and has fired his lawyer, according to a statement released Tuesday by the National College Players Association.

In an unusual twist to the case, former Eastern Illinois football player Adrian Arrington was quoted in a statement released by NCPA executive director Ramogi Huma as saying the settlement is “completely unacceptable.” Huma said Arrington fired attorney Joseph Siprut via email on Tuesday morning.

“The preliminary settlement is completely unacceptable and I never agreed to it,” Arrington said in the statement released by the NCPA. “In fact, the first time I learned about it was in the media. I feel that I have been misinformed and the preliminary settlement doesn’t address the reasons I filed the lawsuit in the first place. I would like the judge to reject the preliminary settlement. I plan to secure new legal representation to continue this fight to protect future players in NCAA sports.”

Arrington could not be reached for comment. Huma said Arrington authorized the statement and is not conducting media interviews so he does not say something that could jeopardize the case.

“I’m disappointed that one of the class representatives has decided to withdraw support for our settlement, having apparently adopted some of the misguided and inaccurate views of the settlement expressed in corners of the media and legal filings by other third-parties,” Siprut said in a statement. “Over 20 current class representative plaintiffs remain wholly supportive of the settlement, which also has the full support of two retired federal judges who helped us structure the deal. We remain optimistic that we will receive court approval of the settlement. I can’t comment further on the specifics of any attorney-client privileged communications at this time.”

The NCAA preliminary settlement calls for a $70 million fund to test, but not treat, thousands of current and former college athletes for concussion-related brain trauma. The agreement would also put aside $5 million for research and change NCAA guidelines for medical care moving forward.

In return, players would waive their personal-injury claims as a class action while preserving their rights to individually sue universities, conferences or the NCAA for damages. Lawyers for Arrington have previously said they made a “strategic decision” to settle for a medical monitoring program and new NCAA guidelines because they likely could not have won a class action with personal-injury claims under 50 state laws if contested.

Arrington, who claims he suffers from depression, seizures and headaches due to concussions, was highly publicized as the lead plaintiff when the case started in 2011.

The settlement is currently under consideration before U.S. District Judge John Lee, who denied preliminary approval last December and encouraged the parties to refine the settlement. The NCAA and Arrington plaintiffs are scheduled to respond in court Wednesday to objections raised by lawyer Jay Edelson, who has tried to oversee the case’s personal injury claims.

Prior to Arrington's statement, Steve Berman, co-lead counsel for the Arrington plaintiffs, said he expected a routine court filing on Wednesday.

"We explain why we have no conflict and why the medical monitoring is valuable and again point out that Edelson has not a single expert that says medical monitoring isn’t important and in fact (Judge Anita Brody in the NFL concussion settlement) found that it was," Berman wrote via email. "So now we have four experts (the medical science committee) and the nfl judge all recognizing medical monitoring as appropriate here versus Edelson. We have constantly pointed out the fact he has no expert or science behind his objections. So tomorrow is more of the same."

Huma, who disagrees with the NCAA settlement, previously filed an affidavit in the case supporting Edelson.

“I’ve told Adrian, and he knows, he’s free to choose any lawyer he wants,” Huma said. “I expect that he will secure a lawyer in the near future. I know Jay, but I’m not working on behalf of Jay. I’m basically in contact with Adrian as an advocate.”

Edelson declined to comment about the case.

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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