N.F.L. Concussion Case Influences Law School Course

The NYTimes reported on a new law school seminar created in response to the N.F.L. concussion case. After the N.F.L. settled with ex-players to the tune of $765 million, "agreeing to compensate victims, pay for medical exams and underwrite research," George Washington University's law school took note and created a seminar course devoted to the issue.

"The revelations that hits to the head may lead to long-term brain damage have rocked the football world at all levels, alarming coaches, players and their parents and forcing the N.F.L. and the N.C.A.A. to tighten safety standards. [It] "also prompted George Washington University’s law school to start what it said was the first course devoted to the legal implications of traumatic brain injuries."

"Unlike some law school classes that focus either on theory or on practice, the seminar blends the intellectual with the practical, such as the admissibility of testimony and the presence of third-party observers in independent medical examinations." It sounds like a great class on a tough legal subject. Brain injury cases are very technical, and it's important to get instruction from the legal and medical standpoints.

As the article noted, "[s]ports associations take the easy way out: They claim to only schedule games and no more." The professor of the class said that the N.F.L. "became liable once it began studying concussions two decades ago."

"The Players, though, will have difficulty winning cases against their teams and leagues because it is hard to prove that concussions they sustained during their careers led to current problems. And because no one forced the players to play, [the professor] said, 'did they assume this risk, or were these players misled, and did the N.F.L. create an obligation?'"

These issues are still being sorted out, but it's great to see a law school recognize a burgeoning area of law where society needs well-trained lawyers.

In a crazy twist, the N.F.L. is a nonprofit an dis exempt from Federal taxes. The N.F.L. takes in more than $9.5 billion per year. "As a nonprofit, it earns more than the Y, the Red Cross, Goodwill, the Salvation Army or Catholic Charities – yet it stands as one of the greatest profit-generating commercial advertising, entertainment and media enterprises ever created." I wonder if a separate injury compensation fund will ever be created to pay for the long-term care of players.

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