By Trang Do
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (CBS) — Chicago-based law firm Edelson, PC filed six suits in federal courts across the country, on behalf of ex-college football players. These men say their schools, the athletic conferences and the NCAA knowingly hid the dangers and risks of playing football and didn’t do enough to protect students.
The firm expects to file dozens of similar lawsuits, which could eventually involve tens of thousands of former college football players. In January, a federal judge ruled in a related head-injury settlement against the NCAA that former players could pursue personal injury claims as part of a class-action lawsuit. The ruling opened the doors to the suits filed Tuesday.
“Beyond that they just didn’t take care of them, they frankly cut them loose and abandoned them,” said Edelson PC Managing Partner Rafey Balabanian. “That is something that should not be taken lightly.”
Penn State and the Big Ten Conference are named as defendants in one of the lawsuits. The plaintiffs are three former players, Robert Samuels, James Boyd, and Eric Ravotti. But if allowed to proceed as a class-action lawsuit, it could include decades of Penn State football players from 1952 through 2010. 2010 is the year when the NCAA required schools to implement concussion-related safety measures.
“These are not former NFL athletes that have been paid handsomely for their skills,” Balabanian said. “These are still kids in my view, who were just trying to get through life and were just trying to get an education.”
Balabanian said despite playing years ago, these former players are still dealing with debilitating side effects of their college play, including memory loss, dementia, depression and a host of long-term brain injuries.
“Many of these people are not able to function in society,” he said. “They’re not able to work, they’re not able to take care of their families and they need to be able to.”
The defendants now have the chance to respond and try to get the suits dismissed. CBS3 did reach out to Penn State for comment. Spokesman Jeff Nelson wrote in an e-mail: “We have not yet reviewed the complaint and thus do not have a comment at this time.”
CBS3 also reached out to the NCAA and received the following statement from Donald Remy, the NCAA’s Chief Legal Officer:
“These cases appear to be yet another attempt by Mr. Edelson to interfere with efforts to move forward a settlement in the Arrington case. The lawsuits reflect copycat activity and just because they keep repeating the same arguments does not make them true.”