A trial targeting the National Football League over injuries suffered by Junior Seau is years away, says a young lawyer who has become a national expert in concussion litigation.
“The discovery process alone could take 2-15 years,” says Paul Anderson of Missouri, who writes a blog on the many pending lawsuits against the NFL. “I don’t think a case would be tried, if at all, until 2018 at the earliest.”
Responding to questions about last week’s lawsuit filed by the children and ex-wife of the former Chargers linebacker, Anderson told Patch that “to be honest, there isn’t really anything too remarkable about [the Seau family] lawsuit.”
Anderson says its 60 pages include the same allegations as those of 200 other lawsuits, “and asserts the same claims that the other 4,000 players are alleging.”
The NFL allegedly concealed and misrepresented the long-term effects of concussive and sub-concussive blows, Anderson said via email.
“The NFL allegedly did this in order to profit off the players—increasing the violence … [and] the fans’ interest, which in turn, increases the revenue.”
Any there any “game-changing” elements to the Seau family claim, filed Jan. 23 in San Diego Superior Court?
“Not really,” Anderson said, “other than Seau being such a high-profile player. His suicide really brought a much bigger focus to the lawsuits and the neurological diseases that former players are suffering from. I think his lawsuit will likely do the same—more high profile players may decide to join.
The league isn’t taking this suit more seriously than others, he added, saying: “The NFL vehemently denies the allegations and plans to vigorously defend the lawsuits by having all of them dismissed—whether it’s a player that played one year in the league or 20 years.”
Even so, could this suit lead to significant changes in NFL game play or rules?
Said Anderson: “I don't think this suit in particular will, but the concussion litigation, in general, has forced the NFL’s hand to make ‘player safety a priority,’ or at the very least, give the impression that the NFL and [NFL Players Association union] are making player safety a priority.
The problem, he says, is that it appears the changes are being made for the current players, “but hardly anything is being done for the former players who are currently suffering, or live in fear, [of] neurological disorders.”
Like all the other lawsuits, the plaintiffs have significant legal hurdles ahead, he said, and noted a prediction he made after the Seau case arose.
Assuming the players survive all the pre-trial … there is a chance that Seau’s lawsuit may be chosen as the first bellwether case. In other words, the plaintiffs’ lawyers may choose to try Seau’s case because it arguably has the best facts.
Bellwether cases are common in mass tort litigation—the purpose is to give an indication to both sides (i.e. plaintiff s and defendants) as to the value, among other things, of the case.
In theory, if the plaintiffs were to try Seau’s case and receive a huge verdict, the NFL would likely want to talk a global settlement to avoid multiple verdicts throughout the country.
On the other hand, if Seau’s lawsuit fell on deaf ears and the jury provided a defense verdict, the NFL would puff out its chest [and] tell the plaintiffs’ lawyers to bring on more cases that will, perhaps, be defeated.
Anderson notes that a dozen wrongful-death lawsuits are pending against the NFL , “the most notable are Dave Duerson and Andre Waters, both of whom were diagnosed with CTE,” for chronic traumatic encephalopathy, which federal doctors say Seau suffered.
“Seau, however, is the youngest, and he played during an era where the alleged fraud of the Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Committee (1994–2009) was likely at its peak,” Anderson wrote.
He also predicted that the lawsuit involving the former Oceanside resident would be removed to federal court and then transferred and consolidated with the other 198 concussion lawsuits.
“Only time will tell whether [the Seau] lawsuit was the one that broke the NFL’s back,” he told Patch.