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Jacob Bell Among the Latest Group to Sue the NFL

2012 October 27

Things have been pretty quiet on the concussion litigation front lately, until a flock of lawsuits were filed this week. On the heels of the plaintiffs filing a reply to the NFL’s motion to dismiss, the plaintiffs’ lawyers were also able to flood the concussion litigation docket. Three separate lawsuits were filed this week.

The first suit was filed in Philadelphia and included 21 former players, led by All-Pro Louis Breeden. The following day, a 61-player complaint was filed in Los Angeles — notable players include 2-time All-Pro Isiah Robertson and Delvin Williams.

The third lawsuit is probably the most intriguing.

Jacob Bell made headlines this summer after he decided to walk away from the game, leaving $890,000 on the table. His decision was primarily based on the increased awareness about the long-term effects regarding concussions.

In a calculated risk-versus-reward analysis, Bell decided that the risk of long-term brain damage was not worth the additional cash money.

Since he will no longer be getting a paycheck from his employer, he, and nine other former players, filed a concussion-related lawsuit against the NFL.

Bell is a sharp guy and certainly made an informed decision, arguably a decision that former players – at least pre-2009 players – never had the opportunity to make. He told the St. Louis Post Dispatch, “[o]ne of my biggest concerns when it comes to the game in general is my personal health. One thing that’s obviously on the minds of a lot of people lately is brain research and all the stuff that’s going on with that.”

A hurdle the plaintiffs will have to clear in the litigation is the assumption of the risk doctrine. Bell’s retirement and logical thought process arguably bolsters the plaintiffs’ case. If players were warned about the risks of concussions, some of them arguably would have decided to hang up their cleats. On the other hand, players could have determined the reward was worth the risk of long-term brain damage. In either event, they would have had the opportunity to make an informed decision.

Only time will tell if more players will choose the Bell path or continue to take on the known-risk of brain damage.

There are now 170 concussion-related lawsuits, which encompasses 3,798 former players and more than 5,000 plaintiffs total. In other words, more than 30% of all living retirees have joined the concussion lawsuits.

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