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National College Football Writer

Potential NCAA concussion settlement moves closer to reality

More college football: Dennis Dodd | Jeremy Fowler | Latest news

One proposed lead counsel of a major concussion lawsuit against the NCAA reached a term sheet in February "that will provide a medical monitoring program to all current and former student-athletes," according to a court filing Friday.

Attorney Steve Berman wrote that his firm, Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro, engaged in 10 months of settlement negotiations with the NCAA that resulted in a term sheet on Feb. 7. The information was part of court documents that reveal a proposed structure among five law firms to potentially reach a settlement.

More than 70 current and former college athletes have sued the NCAA over how it handled concussions, seeking damages and a medical monitoring program. The first suit was filed in 2011 by former Eastern Illinois football player Adrian Arrington and some other athletes in various sports. Hagens Berman and Siprut PC took the lead on the case.

Within the past year, as negotiations with the NCAA picked up, the Arrington plaintiffs met resistance from similar lawsuits whose lawyers wanted a seat at the negotiating table. The proposed structure, pending court approval, is now in place from various lawyers.

* Berman of Hagens Berman and Joseph Siprut of Siprut PC would be lead counsel for the medical monitoring plaintiffs.

* Richard Lewis of Hausfeld LLP would be special class counsel for the plaintiffs.

* Charles Zimmerman of Zimmerman Reed, James Dugan II of The Dugan Law Firm, and Mark Zamora of The Orlando Firm would be on the plaintiffs' executive committee.

In early February, an NCAA attorney said that the NCAA wants "peace" from concussion litigation through a settlement covering all athletes over all time periods and jurisdictions.

Friday's court filings said Hagens Berman and Siprut PC "spent the last three months consulting with other Medical Monitoring plaintiffs' counsel to address any concerns that they may have with respect to the settlement."

The documents do not specify what a settlement would look like. A case management hearing is scheduled for May 29 before U.S. District Judge John Lee in Illinois, where many of the cases are consolidated.

According to one filing, Hagens Berman invested more than 8,000 hours and spent over $400,000 on the case from 2011 until Jan. 31, 2014. That includes nine lawyers spending at least 2,314 hours reviewing 176,849 pages produced by the NCAA. Dr. Robert Cantu, a concussion expert for the plaintiffs, spent about 85 hours working on his consulting report.

The filing said the Hausfeld and Zimmerman Reed law firms ensured that "appropriate cognitive, mood, behavioral and movement disorder testing was considered for purposes of inclusion in any medical monitoring program." The Dugan and Orlando firms have helped to "determine the scope of the parties' claims and the potential for a medical monitoring settlement, as well as to ensure that the Medical Monitoring Plaintiffs reached a consensus on the goals of the parties and the benefits to be achieved through working together," according to a document.

In a separate filing, the NCAA identified 18 pending cases related to concussion litigation. Ten of those cases are part of the Arrington medical monitoring case.

Meanwhile, attorney Jay Edelson filed a motion seeking to be named lead counsel for the personal-injury claims of the class against the NCAA. Edelson, who represents former Pittsburgh football player Frank Moore and former San Diego State player Anthony Nichols, claims the case leaves former college athletes without representation for their core injuries.

“This would not be a problem if the prosecution and potential resolution of the medical monitoring claims had no impact on the class's (personal injury) claims,” Edelson wrote. “However, it is now clear that the strategic moves made by the now named ‘Medical Monitoring Plaintiffs' threaten to impair the rights of the (personal injury) claims.”

Edelson said that before he intervened last fall, lawyers for the class were in the process of releasing personal-injury claims “with no corresponding relief given in exchange.”

In February, NCAA attorney Mark Mester told the court that class members can pursue personal-injury claims individually and “they will not be affected by the settlement.” Mester said at the time he doesn't believe personal-injury claims can even be properly certified as a class.

Edelson's motion said he formed a coalition with 10 attorneys who are focused on purusing personal-injury claims for the class. Edelson said he would be the "sole voice" for personal-injury claims during settlement negotiations with the NCAA on Monday.


Jon Solomon is a national college football reporter with CBSSports.com. Solomon joined CBS in 2014 after covering college football at The Birmingham News/AL.com for eight years. He previously was a Clemson beat writer for The (Columbia, S.C.) State and The Anderson (S.C.) Independent-Mail.
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