NCAA: Scholarships/Grants In Aid (GIAs)

Cases of particular nationwide interest for fans, athletes and the general public involve numerous cases filed by Hagens Berman against the NCAA. The most recent, and potentially far-reaching, case involves a suit on behalf of NCAA student-athletes against the NCAA and its most powerful members, including the Pac-12, Big Ten, Big-12, SEC and ACC, claiming these entities violated federal antitrust laws by drastically reducing the number of scholarships and financial aid student-athletes receive to an amount below the actual cost of attendance and far below what the free market would bare.

"The lawsuit puts Berman at the lead of an effort that could rebalance the relationship between athletes and the Indianapolis-based NCAA, which reported $841.1 million in revenue in the fiscal year ending in August 2012. His firm, Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP, is also leading three lawsuits against the NCAA that seek to increase athletes’ control over their finances, including one that seeks money for those whose likenesses appeared without their permission in video games."

— "NCAA Faces Legal Push Led by Litigator With Tobacco Stash," Patrick G. Lee, Bloomberg  

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NCAA: Concussions

Hagens Berman has also taken on the NCAA for its failure to prevent concussions and protect student-athletes who suffered concussions. Currently, the firm is finalizing a proposed settlement that will make sweeping changes to the NCAA’s approach to concussion treatment and prevention; provide a 50-year medical-monitoring program for student-athletes to screen for and track head injuries; and establish a $5 million fund for concussion research.

The core settlement benefits include:

  • A 50-year medical monitoring program overseen by a medical science committee appointed by the court that will screen and track concussions. Examinations will include neurological and neurocognitive assessments to evaluate potential injuries. The monitoring program will be funded by a $70 million medical monitoring fund, paid by the NCAA and its insurers.
  • Significant changes to and enforcement of the NCAA’s concussion management policies and return-to-play guidelines. All players will now receive a seasonal, baseline test to better assess concussions sustained during the season. All athletes who have sustained a concussion will now need to be cleared before returning to play, under the terms of the settlement. Additionally, a medical professional trained in the diagnosis of concussions will be present at all games involving contact-sports. The settlement also creates reporting mandates for concussions and their treatment.

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Player Likeness Rights

Hagens Berman attorneys representing student-athletes who claimed that the NCAA illegally used student-athletes’ names, images and likenesses in Electronic Arts’ popular NCAA Football, Basketball and March Madness video game series reached a combined $60 million settlement with the NCAA and EA, marking the first time the NCAA has agreed to a settlement that pays student-athletes for acts related to their participation in athletics.

The firm also represents NFL legend Jim Brown in litigation against videogame manufacturer Electronic Arts for improperly using his likeness in its NFL video games.

“We began this case with the knowledge that the NCAA and member schools were resolute in keeping as much control over student-athletes as possible,” managing partner Steve Berman said. “But we were equally resolute that anyone – even a student-athlete playing under scholarship – should not be exploited for profit, especially by the organization that vowed to prevent the athlete from exploitation.”

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USA Water Polo: Concussions

Hagens Berman has filed a class-action suit against USA Water Polo alleging that the entity has neglected to enact concussion and head injury safety measures. The case arises from USA Water Polo’s failure to take steps to recognize, manage and appropriately treat head injuries and concussions. The governing body for the sport allegedly failed to implement even a scant amount of concussion management care for its participants, representing an extreme departure from the ordinary standard of care.

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FIFA: Concussions

Several current and former soccer players filed a class action against FIFA, soccer’s worldwide governing body, and affiliated soccer organizations in the U.S. The players allege that these groups failed to adopt effective policies to evaluate and manage concussions, which are a common occurrence at all levels. 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.

The players claim that despite participating in and even hosting these conferences, FIFA has failed to enact the policies and rules needed to protect soccer players. FIFA’s guidelines appear to suggest that players self-diagnose brain injuries, and they leave it to untrained referees (not a doctor) to determine if the player is too injured to continue. The players allege that “returning a player to play before fully recovered negligently puts him or her at risk of a permanent brain injury.”

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Pop Warner

Hagens Berman represents youth athletes who have suffered traumatic brain injuries due to gross negligence, and has filed a lawsuit on behalf of former Pop Warner football player Donnovan Hill and his mother Crystal Dixon. The suit claims that the league insisted Hill use improper and dangerous tackling techniques which left the now 17-year-old paralyzed from the neck down. Pop Warner, its affiliates, Hill’s coaches and members of the Lakewood Pop Warner board of directors are liable for the coaches’ repeated and incorrect instruction that Hill and his teammates tackle opposing players by leading with the head.

Hagens Berman encourages Pop Warner and high school student-athletes and/or parents or guardians to contact the firm if they believe a student-athlete has suffered a brain injury due to harm sustained during Pop Warner or high school sports.

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Other Cases

In addition to its class actions, Hagens Berman has filed several individual cases to uphold the rights of athletes and ensure a fair and safe environment. The firm has filed multiple individual cases to address concussions and other traumatic head injuries among student-athletes at NCAA schools and in youth sports. Hagens Berman continues to represent the interests of athletes and find innovative and effective applications of the law to uphold players' rights.

The firm has also brought many concussions cases on behalf of individual athletes, challenging large universities and institutions for the rights those who have suffered irreversible damage due to gross negligence and lack of even the most basic concussion-management guidelines.