A group of former college football players who are suing the NCAA over its handling of football-related concussions urged a federal court in Tennessee to block intervention in their suit by another group of former college athletes in Illinois who made similar claims against the association two years ago.
The Tennessee complaint, filed by former University of Tennessee defensive end Chris Walker and two other players, asserts the NCAA knew or should have known about the risks posed to football players but did nothing to warn them about the dangers. The plaintiffs also allege that that the NCAA failed to properly prevent, assess, and treat players’ concussions, thereby heightening their risk of developing degenerative brain disorders in the future.
The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Chattanooga on Sept. 3, seeks medical monitoring for all former NCAA football players from all 50 states who never went on to play for the major league.
On Sept. 9, plaintiffs involved in a similar suit against the NCAA in Illinois filed a motion to intervene in the Tennessee federal case, arguing the lawsuits overlap and thus are effectively the same. That lawsuit was filed in 2011 by Eastern Illinois University football player Adrian Arrington and other plaintiffs, who say they filed their suit first, so plaintiffs in the Tennessee case should be joined to theirs.
Mr. Walker and his fellow plaintiffs want the court to stop the intervention. They argue that the cases should not be consolidated because they are substantially different. For instance, the Illinois federal suit encompasses athletes from football and six other sports and includes women, but only extends to former NCAA players from 18 states.
“The intervenors’ proposed class actually excludes most of the members of the Walker class,” the plaintiffs argued, claiming that “At most, [the] intervenors represent a small subset of the class represented by the Walker plaintiffs” because their suit only includes NCAA football players from 18 states who played from 2004 to the present.
In motioning to block the intervention Mr. Walker and his fellow plaintiffs argue that the plaintiffs in the other case won’t be harmed if the court rejects their bid to intervene. However, if the court dismisses the Tennessee lawsuit, a large portion of the proposed plaintiffs in the Walker class would be shut out of pursuing claims.