By: Allan M. Siegel
Junior Seau was an incredibly well-loved and fan favorite linebacker who played in the NFL for over 20 years. In a previous blog, we discussed how an NIH study revealed Seau suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Seau's diagnosis was later confirmed by five different neuroscientists. Seau's family filed a wrongful death suit in California, which was consolidated into the larger action against the NFL.
Earlier this month, the Seau family publicly announced that they planned to reject the proposed settlement, and will opt-out to pursue their initial wrongful death suit. Steven Strauss, the Seau family's attorney, said that the family "wants to know why this settlement seems designed for expediency for the NFL and to ensure that information doesn't come out." He went on to say that the Seau family will fight for "the truth to come out" because "since this litigation started, there hasn't been one document produced, and there hasn't been one deposition taken." The Seau family believes that the proposed settlement is "very clearly designed to nip this in the bud," which is not acceptable to them or to Junior Seau's legacy.
In opting out of the consolidated action, they will have to face the NFL on their own and without the force of the other plaintiffs and their attorneys. The Seau family, however, also faces more unique issues than many of the other plaintiffs. They are suing for their own pain and suffering caused by Junior Seau's wrongful death, rather than Junior Seau's pain and suffering. Before his death Seau's personality changed dramatically, he was explosive, gambled excessively, and scared his family. He eventually took his own life, leaving his four children to carry on without a father.
The Seau family believes that the proposed settlement will not adequately compensate the children of former NFL players who suffered from CTE. Chris Seeger, an attorney who negotiated on behalf of other players, believes that the Seaus face significant risks by opting out because they will have to prove that the CTE was caused by concussions Seau experienced during his time in the NFL, and not during his time during youth, high school, or college football. On the other hand, the Seaus' family attorney Steven Strauss hopes that their opt-out will cause other plaintiffs to follow their lead and opt-out. If enough players refuse to accept the settlement, then maybe the NFL will be forced to re-examine and properly address the outstanding issues. One of the main controversial issues is the "grid system," which was designed to determine payout amounts based on the cognitive issues and symptoms experienced by each player. However, how it will work is not transparent.
CSCS admires the Seaus' courage and perseverance in standing up to the NFL, rejecting the settlement, and vowing to fight until the truth comes out. At CSCS, we have decades of experience helping clients with traumatic brain injuries. Two of the firm's partners were founders of the Brain Injury Association of Metropolitan Washington, D.C., and they currently serve on the Board of Directors. Partner Ira Sherman is the current treasurer of the Brain Injury Association of America. If you have suffered a brain injury as a result of negligence, please do not hesitate to give us a call for a free consultation.