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Judge Rejects NCAA's Class-Action Concussion Settlement

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By Brett Snider, Esq. on December 23, 2014 5:59 AM

The NCAA's class-action concussion settlement was rejected last week, with a federal judge questioning if the settlement amounts were sufficient.

The NCAA had offered to settle allegations that its policies had led to concussion-related injuries by offering about $70 million to create a medical monitoring program for NCAA athletes as well as $5 million for concussion research. The New York Times reports that federal Judge John Z. Lee questioned whether these numbers were adequate to "cover medical screening for all athletes."

What can the NCAA do now that the settlement has been rejected?

If at First You Don't Settle...

The NCAA had reached the proposed $75 million settlement in late July, and it promised major changes in medical policy as well as a program to screen athletes for concussion-related medical issues for 50 years. The settlement would have covered a specific class of athletes and would not close out all claims against the NCAA for concussion injuries.

The agreement in July hinged on approval of the settlement by Judge Lee, which as we see now, wasn't exactly a lock. The NFL experienced its own issues with settling its near-billion-dollar settlement over concussion injuries. Much like in this case, the federal judge rejected the proposed settlement because she believed the settlement funds wouldn't cover the potential claims made by those in the class action.

Perhaps the NCAA will follow the NFL's lead and simply remove the cap on settlement funds, allowing for more flexibility. The NCAA may also need to convince the federal court that it can implement the policy changes described in its settlement agreement.

Back to the Drawing Board

With a class-action settlement that attempts to consider multiple college sports programs, it isn't surprising that the NCAA's first attempt to settle failed. According to Yahoo! Sports, the plaintiffs allege "tens of thousands" of athletes may need testing for damage related to head injuries. Combine this with the fact that it would need to continue for 50 years, and you may have a sense of the enormity of what the settlement agreement would be promising.

It's not necessarily a bad thing for both sides to go back to the drawing board on this concussion settlement. Better for both parties to bless a fully realized deal than to settle and be back in court fighting about settlement details.

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