A judge in Philadelphia will soon decide whether more than 200 former NFL players will be allowed to seek compensation for their concussion injuries in court.
The judge, U.S. District Judge Anita Brody, must decide whether the players' claims are labor disputes or personal injury claims. If they are labor disputes, then they must go to arbitration rather than to jury trial because the players signed collective bargaining agreements that require arbitration.
The players claim the NFL knew about the impact of mild traumatic brain injuries / concussions but "produced industry-funded, biased, and falsified research" that suppressed findings showing the adverse effects of mild TBI.
Yet, before they can present evidence at trial, the players need to get past the current hurdle. Judge Brody has the option to dismiss the players' claims, allow only fraud claims to move forward, push the cases to arbitration or allow them to go to jury trial. Since there is very little precedent in this area, it is difficult to speculate on her decision.
Why Is Trial The Better Option?
In arbitration, an arbitrator listens to both sides of a case and issues a private, binding opinion. While arbitration could lead to some compensation for the traumatic brain injuries suffered by NFL players, it is often a more business-friendly option. Furthermore, since the case would be classified as a labor dispute, the arbitrator would most likely make a decision based almost solely on the contracts between the players and the NFL.
Jury trials, on the other hand, allow both sides to present evidence to a jury. Since juries tend to be sympathetic to people who have suffered injuries -- and the individuals before them would be former players whom they might admire -- the players could hypothetically receive significant damage awards that cover the cost of long-term care, past medical expenses and other loses.
Source: ABC News, "Judge to Decide Fate of NFL Concussion Lawsuits," Katie Moisse, April 9, 2013