Walter Olsen, of Overlawyered (see blogroll at left) talks with Steve Chapman of The Washington Examiner about the coming onslaught of lawsuits against the NFL related to head trauma… and he isn’t optimistic about the future of football.
“Seriously?” you may ask. A guy who made a good living engaging in high-speed collisions with 300-lb. blocks of granite can say he didn’t understand the risks involved? It may seem that case will be laughed out of court.
But Olson thinks not. “Courts have not been very friendly to this argument, particularly when something as grave as permanent brain damage is involved,” he told me. And it’s become apparent that while players were aware of the possibility of mangled knees, broken bones and concussions, they didn’t grasp that repeated blows to the head could produce debilitating and irreversible mental harms.
Exposure to asbestos was long known to be unhealthy, but that didn’t stop sick workers from succeeding in court. More than 730,000 people have sued some 8,000 companies, and dozens of firms connected to asbestos in some way have been driven into bankruptcy.
The NFL has a weak hand in other ways as well. Professional football players, notes Olson, make particularly appealing litigants, since they tend to be well-known and widely liked. Their cases will get a lot of sympathetic publicity.
These athletes are handsomely paid, which means that brain trauma may deprive them of years of high earnings while requiring them to get expensive care for decades — all of which the league and other parties (stadium owners, equipments makers and so on) may be forced to pay for.
And for those college football and Friday night lighters who say “screw the NFL”, don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater… if the NFL goes kaput so will your versions and tout de suite.