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Ten ex-football players' concussion-related lawsuits are pending against the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). But the cases may soon be consolidated to streamline the settlement process. A two-year-old concussion lawsuit against the NCAA is in settlement talks -- now nine other lawsuits may enter the mix.
But what does it mean to consolidate cases?
Cases can be "consolidated," or combined, when two or more lawsuits or matters involve a common question of law or fact. Here, the issue is the NCAA's negligence related to concussions.
The NCAA is facing a growing number of federal lawsuits by injured players claiming the NCAA was negligent in its handling of concussions. Attorneys who filed a lawsuit on behalf of football player Adrian Arrington a former Eastern Illinois football player, have alleged in motions that at least one of the recently filed concussion cases is a "copycat" and should be consolidated with their case, reports USA Today.A federal judicial panel in Las Vegas will decide whether Arrington's lawsuit against the NCAA, which is already in settlement talks, should be consolidated with nine other similar lawsuits filed within the past three months.
But attorneys for the nine other cases feel their cases are intrinsically different -- for example, because they include players' spouses or helmet-makers -- and shouldn't simply be merged into the Arrington case as a single action.
Variations of Consolidation
Consolidated cases may become one single action with a single judgment, or may retain their individual identities although tried together. The court may also try one representative case and issue a judgment binding on the other cases. In this case, it's unclear how a consolidation would be carried out, but it's pretty clear the attorneys can't come to an agreement on the type of consolidation to pursue, reports USA Today.
Paralleling the NFL's $765 million concussion-related settlement, if the panel opts to consolidate the cases, it could send greatly streamline the concussion litigation against the NCAA but it could also affect current mediation efforts. Much like the NFL suit, tension among plaintiffs' attorneys leaves questions about who should be lead counsel and how a consolidated case against the NCAA could be settled.
From the cases' nuanced legal issues to the attorneys' competing interests, an NCAA consolidation process would certainly be anything but a clean process.