Can you feel that? I sure can. It’s beginning to feel like football season! Although the professional football season is just around the corner it now seems like there is football news all year round. The off-season is more than the draft or what free agent signed with what new team. The NFL football off-season is now full of stuff lawyers love; investigations and law-suits.
The two big legal stories that dominated the professional off-season were the investigation of the New Orleans Saints for putting bounties on opposing players and the ongoing litigation over concussions suffered by former players.
In the first case the New Orleans Saints have been accused of putting bounties on players from opposing teams. What this means is that Saints defensive players were each putting up a certain amount of money and whoever knocked an opposing player out for a few plays, or for the rest of a game, was awarded the pot of money. This is, however, against NFL rules and the Saints were punished, harshly. Roger Goodell, the Commissioner of the NFL fined the Saints organization $500,000 and several future draft choices. The team’s head coach and general manager were banned for the season without pay, the defensive coordinator was banned indefinitely, and several players were banned for anywhere from three games to the full season. The one player banned for the season was Saints linebacker and defensive captain Jonathan Vilma. While everyone else has accepted their punishment Jonathan Vilma has not and has done what every other red-blooded American would do; he is suing Roger Goodell for defamation in US federal district court. A copy of Vilma’s complaint can be found here.
The other big law related issue that is affecting the NFL is the numerous lawsuits filed by former players alleging that the NFL knew that players were suffering from concussions caused by the violence of the game, but did nothing to protect those players. According to the NFL Concussion Litigation website there are 3,236 former players as plaintiffs in 124 separate lawsuits. While most lawsuits are for negligence, several are for wrongful death alleging that the NFL’s inaction on the concussion issue caused the deaths of former players. A recent posting on the site noted that the NFL’s insurance company filed a declaratory action stating that they had no duty to defend the NFL against these lawsuits and that they had no duty to indemnify the NFL. If you are a football fan interested in the concussion issue definitely check out this web site.
Football is played in the fall and early winter, but litigation is a year round endeavor.