Hagens Berman Files Opposition to FIFA’s Attempt to Dismiss Concussion Class-Action Lawsuit
SEATTLE – National plaintiffs law firm Hagens Berman filed a response to a motion to dismiss from the Fèdèration Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) in a class-action lawsuit on behalf of several current and former soccer players against soccer’s worldwide governing body and affiliated youth soccer organizations in the United States who claim they had no duty to protect soccer players against concussions. The opposition to FIFA’s motion states that FIFA has “no basis to dismiss” claims and argues that FIFA and other defendants neglected to protect soccer players by failing to enact and enforce best practices for concussion management.
“FIFA and other US soccer governing entities have made an argument that they had no duty to protect their players against concussions – an argument that we find morally and legally outrageous,” said Steve Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman and attorney representing the soccer players. “I can only imagine the surprise and shock of parents if they were told that the governing bodies for millions of kids who play soccer believe they have no responsibility to protect these young players.”
Hagens Berman’s opposition to FIFA’s motion to compel arbitration states, “FIFA’s approach is telling. Its suggested scattershot, piecemeal and ineffective approach to critical health and safety issues is exactly what has led to Defendants’ woefully inadequate management of youth concussions.”
“We believe that FIFA and other organizations that govern soccer safety regulations have chosen to ignore a massive problem that is only growing worse,” Berman said. “As expected, FIFA has attempted to pass the buck once again on this issue, and we believe that it is wrong on all accounts of its attempt to dismiss this case.”
Hagens Berman recently led a separate class action and settlement that will reform concussion policies across the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). The lawsuit against FIFA could mean similar changes to soccer around the world.
The lawsuit alleges that these groups have failed to adopt effective policies to evaluate and manage concussions, a common occurrence at all levels of the game. They also claim that a lack of effective policies poses a greater danger to women and children players, who are more vulnerable to traumatic and long-lasting brain injury.
Plaintiffs allege that there is “an epidemic of concussion injuries in soccer at all levels around the world, including in the United States, from youth to professionals, from elite players to children playing for the first time, women and men, girls and boys.”
Attorneys representing the soccer players in the case have asked the court to deny FIFA’s motion to dismiss the case, stating, “FIFA erroneously argues that: (1) this Court lacks personal jurisdiction over FIFA; (2) the Complaint should be dismissed because nonparty IFAB (International Football Association Board) is an indispensable party; (3) Plaintiffs lack standing; and (4) the Complaint does not state any valid claim. FIFA is wrong on all counts.”
“As to jurisdiction, FIFA has engaged in myriad intentional soccer-related contacts with California, and Plaintiffs’ claims arise from the failure of FIFA and the other Defendants to take steps to reduce players’ injuries, including concussions. As to IFAB, FIFA’s “Statutes” expressly give IFAB any power that it may appear to have. And Plaintiffs have amply alleged factual material supporting every element of their causes of action and their standing to maintain those claims,” the brief states.
The players cite FIFA’s marketing and policy materials, which tout a commitment to player safety. In the past, FIFA has implemented policies to address health threats including cardiac arrest and performance-enhancing drugs, and concussions deserve the same attention.
The lawsuit, Mehr v. Fèdèration Internationale de Football Association, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California seeks to require FIFA and its U.S. affiliates to implement up-to-date guidelines for detection of head injuries and for return to play after a concussion. The suit also calls for regulation of heading by players under 17 years old, and a rule change to permit substitution of players for medical evaluation purposes. Currently, FIFA rules generally allow only three substitutions per game with no clear provision for head injuries. If an athlete bleeds, even from a scrape, removal is required, but no similar rule exists for concussions. FIFA provides no guidance on substitutions in youth games in the U.S.
In addition, the lawsuit seeks medical monitoring for soccer players who received head injuries in the past. The lawsuit does not seek monetary damages to compensate for athletes’ injuries, but injured athletes could still pursue awards individually.
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About Hagens Berman
Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP is a consumer-rights class-action law firm with offices in nine cities. The firm has been named to the National Law Journal’s Plaintiffs’ Hot List eight times. More about the law firm and its successes can be found at www.hbsslaw.com. Follow the firm for updates and news at @ClassActionLaw.