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The University Of Florida Under Fire For Handling Of Traumatic Brain Injuries

As much fun as it is to cheer on your beloved Gators every Saturday, there’s the unfortunate reality that players on the field are susceptible to serious head injuries on every snap. Traumatic brain injuries are a rapidly growing problem for the sport of football, and brain injury lawyers have seen the stacks of paperwork growing as more and more personal injury suits are filed. Recently, the Florida Gators football program was specifically named in a federally-filed lawsuit regarding head injuries and may have to go through detailed pre-trial evidence gathering.

Origins Of The Case

The recent filing is rooted in a national class-action head injury lawsuit that the NCAA settled three years ago for $75 million. The settlement stipulated that the money be earmarked for a fund that would diagnose college athletes who played contact sports, and determine the extent of any brain injuries they suffered while an NCAA athlete. However, the deal did not allocate money for collegiate athletes who suffered brain trauma. If an athlete suffered a traumatic brain injury and wanted to personally sue, they still had the option to do so. Ironically, any results obtained from the NCAA’s injury fund could be used by an athlete in a future personal injury suit. If an individual were to file a personal injury suit, they could not do so as a member of a nationwide class, or a class that was comprised of athletes from more than one university.

The Current Case

A document was filed in a Chicago federal court, which consisted of lawsuits naming various universities, their conferences, and the NCAA as defendants. Since the original settlement three years ago, there have been 96 lawsuits filed, representing all three NCAA divisions. You can imagine the chaos that would ensure if all 96 cases were accepted. U.S. District Judge John Z. Lee instructed attorneys on instead choose sample cases. Attorneys representing both the plaintiffs and defendants each selected two cases from the 96 that would proceed. These sample cases will be used to determine the viability of the other cases.

How Are The Gators Involved?

Attorneys are now attempting to gather pretrial evidence, in preparation of an upcoming status hearing before Judge Lee. One of the four cases that was selected as a sample case involved former Gator Jamie Richardson, who was a member of the football team from 1994 – 1996. Although Richardson is the lead plaintiff, the case is seeking to represent all members of Gator football teams from 1952 – 2010. The Southeastern Conference was also named as a defendant in the suit.

There is a good chance that the case against the University of Florida will not be settled as part of a class action suit. Lee stated that the record in the nationwide case “does not provide sufficient facts from which the Court can conclude that a class that is much more narrowly defined in terms of size, type of sport, and/or time period could never be certified against a particular school. Nor can the Court conclude from the present record that a very narrowly defined, single-school personal injury class could never be certified against the NCAA. This is not to say that such efforts to certify personal injury claims against even individual schools and the NCAA would not face significant, perhaps insurmountable, hurdles.”

The other three sample cases selected involved Purdue University, Pittsburgh State, and Weber State.

Florida Very Much Involved With Traumatic Brain Injuries

The traumatic brain injury issue extends further than the University of Florida, and can be seen across the entire state. Approximately one year ago, 26 retired Florida football players sued the National Football League. The players wanted to receive worker’s compensation, on the premise that the league covered up the fact that multiple concussions leads to chronic traumatic encephalopathy, more commonly known as CTE. Their case is promising. Just two years ago, the NFL paid over $1 billion for suits concerning CTE-related claims.

The suits’ lead plaintiff was Tony Gaiter, a Miami native who played for the New England Patriots. You may also be familiar with plaintiff Sedrick Irvin, a former Detroit Lions running back who played amateur football at Miami Southridge High School.

The ever-growing knowledge regarding CTE is becoming a more serious problem for the NFL each day. A study revealed that over 40% of retired NFL players showed signs of a serious head injury. Dr. Francis X. Conidi, a faculty member at the Florida State University College of Medicine and neurologist at the Florida Center for Headache and Sports Neurology, was one of the study’s authors. He stated, “What we do know is that players with traumatic brain injury have a high incidence of going on to develop neurological degenerative disease later on in life.”

Attorney David Goldman has a strong belief that everyone should be treated fairly and those with the means should do what they can to bring justice in all areas of our society. That belief has led him to help Florida's injured from being taken advantage of by corporations and insurance companies. Since 1989 David Goldman has been fighting for the rights of Floridians both as an attorney and by personally supporting our community.

The University Of Florida Under Fire For Handling Of Traumatic Brain Injuries

Goldman Babboni Fernandez
Murphy & Walsh

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