Legal Issues In the News

The NFL in Court


Verity Winship

University of Illinois College of Law

Around the Super Bowl, a lot of people are talking and thinking about football.  That includes federal judges.  One in particular has probably been thinking about football a lot lately.  Judge Brody of the federal trial court in Pennsylvania is one of the judges hearing lawsuits about concussions in the NFL.  

Beginning in 2011, retired professional football players sued the NFL claiming that concussions they got while playing professional football had permanent long-term effects.   For years the parties to the suit negotiated.  There were mediators, special masters, economists, actuaries, medical experts, and lawyers.  Lawyers for plaintiffs and defendants eventually presented the court with a proposed settlement: the NFL would pay the plaintiffs $765 million dollars, and the court case would be over.  In 2015 – on the day after the Super Bowl – the judge rejected that settlement.

Many things about this litigation are high profile.  It is not every day that a lawsuit is brought in the name of every former NFL player ever.   But we can only understand what’s going on in this litigation if we think about a different set of players too: the plaintiffs who sue, defendants who defend, the judge, and lots and lots of lawyers.  This radio commentary looks at these players and their roles in making sure this fight ends fairly.