The NFL Concussion Litigation: A Critical Assessment of Class Certification
Sheila B. Scheuerman
Charleston School of Law
May 7, 2013
8 FIU L. Rev. 81 (2012)
In the world of high-stakes class action litigation, a new theory is emerging that seeks to overcome the longstanding hurdles that have precluded certification of personal injury class actions: the "medical monitoring" class action. A recent example is the concussion-related lawsuits brought by former football players against the National Football League. The players allege that the NFL concealed the long term effects of on-field head injury, and failed to warn players of the risks of harm from repeated concussions. The players only seek class certification on a medical monitoring claim — a tort that may allow asymptomatic plaintiffs to recover anticipated medical testing. Like the putative personal injury class or no-injury class, however, aggregation of medical monitoring claims presents its own individual issues that preclude class certification under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
This symposium essay examines the class certification issues presented by the "NFL concussion" litigation. The essay presents the history and status of this litigation, provides an overview of concussion science, and examines the players’ claims against current standards for class certification. The essay concludes that the players’ medical monitoring claim as currently pled fails to satisfy the criteria for class certification. This does not mean that these plaintiffs have no redress against the NFL. It means only that the NFL players need to employ the traditional personal injury lawsuit — not the class action device — to pursue their relief.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 25
Keywords: NFL, concussion, class action, medical monitoring, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23, FRCP 23, class certification, Wal-Mart v. Dukes
JEL Classification: K00, K10, K13, K40, K41
Date posted: May 10, 2013