2013-08-30 16:18:36 - WASHINGTON, D.C. (August 30, 2013): One major problem the proposed settlement of concussion law suits creates is that the NFL will not be forced, through the normal process of pretrial discovery, to reveal its reportedly huge amounts of still secret information about the causes, symptoms, rates, and possible mitigation of injuries caused by concussions – information which could help generations of potential players to decide whether these risks outweighed the benefits of playing the game, and also possibly to detect very early symptoms of serious problems in time for players to give up the game before the damages becomes irrevocable.
But the industry could still be forced to make all of this information public if just one player simply opted out of the settlement to continue his own law suit – including pretrial discovery in which he could demand disclosure of secret studies and reports, require employees to testify under oath, etc.
This suggestion comes from law professor John Banzhaf, who was called the "Dean of Public Interest Lawyers," "The Law Professor Who Masterminded Litigation Against the Tobacco Industry," and "a Driving Force Behind the Lawsuits That Have Cost Tobacco Companies Billions of Dollars."
While defeating the proposed settlement itself might be difficult, and possibly not in the interests of many of the older players already suffering from major medical
problems, any member of the class covered by the suit is permitted by law to simply opt out of the proceeding, leaving him free to purpose his own law suit unrestricted by the terms of the proposed settlement.
In doing so he could benefit and help protect literally millions in future generations who might decide not to play football based upon risks which are now still not fully appreciated, or to stop playing earlier than otherwise based upon still-secret information about early detection of serious potential problems before they fully manifest themselves.
Such a player might be one whose concussion-related injuries are less serious than others and/or someone who has sufficient savings that he has less need of an immediate payout. It could also be someone who wishes to make a lasting contribution by helping to insure that many more generations of children and young men are not lured into playing a game where the risk of serious brain injury is just too great.
Any information from such a law suit – information which would not be made public under the proposed settlement – could also help spur the developments of safer football helmets, provide the basis for similar law suits against universities, etc.
Banzhaf says that any player willing to opt out and pursue separate litigation should be able to find lawyers like himself willing to pursue the case at no cost to the player.
JOHN F. BANZHAF III, B.S.E.E., J.D., Sc.D.
Professor of Public Interest Law
George Washington University Law School,
FAMRI Dr. William Cahan Distinguished Professor,
Fellow, World Technology Network,
Founder, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH)
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