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Hard-Fought Cases: Securing Justice

By: Larry E. Coben, Anapol Weiss Shareholder

Anapol Weiss Champions Retired NFL Players in Landmark Concussion Case

In 2011 and 2012, we met with many retired NFL players and their families in an effort to understand the many medical issues they were dealing with, including neuropsychological disabilities. Some of these players were quite well known, such as Jim McMahon of the Chicago Bears and Ray Easterling and Wayne Radloff of the Atlanta Falcons. Others, who were not as well known, had similar stories about themselves or their deceased husbands or fathers, including bouts with long-term debilitating illnesses, including significant emotional and mental dysfunction, dementia, Alzheimer and Parkinson’s disease. These injury patterns caused us to question: “What is going on here”? Each players’ story was the same: “I got my bell rung,” “I came out of the game, and they gave me smelling salts and sent me back in,” “I got in my car to drive to the store and forgot where I was going,” and “I can’t stop screaming”.

Over the next 5 months, we met with a dozen experts in the fields of neurology, brain injury, neuropsychology, and neuro-cognitive behavior. As the medical explanations for these players’ problems became clear, we knew what had to be done: we had to sue the NFL.

The Easterling case was the first lawsuit filed by former players and their families against the NFL seeking national Class Action status related to concussive injuries and resulting neuro-cognitive illness and disabilities. After this case was filed, copycat suits were brought by others, and all the cases were combined, with our Firm leading the charge. Thousands of players and their families joined in this lawsuit. Over the next two years, we organized the scientific opinions essential to establish the medical relationship between our players suffering multiple concussions and many serious neurological injuries and illnesses. And we showed that some family members' loved ones had taken their lives because of these brain injuries. 

We were so proud to have worked with the court-appointed mediator to develop a class settlement for thousands of retired NFL players and their families. It has been estimated that the NFL will pay out more than a Billion Dollars to former players and their families for the harm they have suffered because of the NFL’s mismanagement of player concussions. We have also been thrilled to see that the NFL’s concussion management program has evolved along with the adoption of similar medical programs at the college and high school levels for athletes in all contact sports. Besides helping individual clients and their families, we are proud of the long-term change in sports, which prevents history from repeating itself.