Week Adjourned: 1.27.12

A weekly wrap up of top class action lawsuits and lawsuit settlements for the week ending January 27,2012.

Top Class Actions

Ex Pro Football Players go head to head with NFL Over Concussions. Yup—that’s right. The NFL is facing a class action lawsuit filed on behalf of all former NFL players, including seven named players and four spouses over concussion and related health effects.

The named players include former Philadelphia Eagles Ron Solt, Joe Panos, and Rich Miano. The lawsuit charges that the NFL and other defendants intentionally and fraudulently misrepresented and/or concealed medical evidence about the short- and long-term risks regarding repetitive traumatic brain injury and concussions and failed to warn players that they risked permanent brain damage if they returned to play too soon after sustaining a concussion.

Ron Solt, age 50, was an all-star guard for the Eagles from 1988 to 1991 and also played for the Indianapolis Colts, playing 10 seasons in all from 1984 to 1993. He suffered at least one concussion during an NFL game while with the Eagles, as well as multiple head traumas and concussions during practice that were never medically diagnosed. He now suffers from substantial memory loss and persistent ringing in his ears.

Joe Panos, age 41, played as an offensive lineman in the NFL from 1994 to 2000 and was with the Eagles from 1994 to 1997. He sustained concussions while with the Eagles and Buffalo Bills. He currently experiences headaches, memory loss, irritability, rage, mood swings, and sleeplessness.

Rich Miano, age 49, played as a defensive back for 10 seasons in the NFL between 1985 and 1995 and was with the Eagles from 1991 to 1994. He is now associate head coach of the University of Hawaii football team. He sustained at least one concussion while playing but is currently asymptomatic.

Gennaro DiNapoli, age 36, was an NFL center and guard from 1998 to 2004 who sustained repeated head impacts during his NFL career. He suffers from severe depression, memory loss, headaches, anxiety and mood swings.

Adam Haayer, age 34, was an offensive lineman from 2001 to 2006 for four teams. He had at least four concussions or concussion-like symptoms and deals with memory loss, depression, and anxiety. Daniel Buenning, age 30, played as an offensive lineman in the NFL for four seasons from 2005 to 2008. He suffers from substantial memory loss, depression, trouble with concentration, short attention span, and mood swings.

Craig Heimburger, age 34, played on the offensive line for four teams between 1999 and 2002. He sustained multiple head impacts and concussions and suffers from dizziness, memory loss, and intense headaches.

Also named in the complaints were the wives of several players including Lori Miano, Summer Haayer, Ashley Buenning and Dawn Heimburger.

Lawyers representing the plaintiffs said this action is necessary because the NFL knew about the debilitating and permanent effects of head injuries and concussions that regularly occur among professional players, yet ignored and actively concealed the risks.

The lawsuit charges that the NFL voluntarily joined the scientific research as well as public and private discussions regarding the relationship between concussions and brain impairment when it created the Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (MTBI) Committee in 1994. Rather than naming a noted neurologist to chair this committee, it appointed Dr. Elliott Pellman, a rheumatologist who was a paid physician and trainer for the New York Jets, a conflict of interest, and had training in the treatment of joints and muscles, not head injuries. While the committee was established with the stated purpose of researching and lessening the impact of concussions on NFL players, it failed to inform them of the true risks associated with head trauma.

Although athletes who suffered brain trauma in other professional sports were restricted from playing full games or even seasons, NFL players with similar head injuries were regularly returned to play with devastating consequences.

The lawsuit seeks medical monitoring, compensation, and financial recovery for the short-term, long-term, and chronic injuries, financial and intangible losses, and expenses for the individual former and present NFL players and their spouses.

What can I say—it’s a wake-up call a long time in the making.

Top Settlements

Wonder if Payless texted this piece of news…A proposed settlement (the “Settlement Agreement”) has been reached in the class action lawsuit against Payless ShoeSource, Inc. (“Payless” or “Defendant”). You may be a Member of the Settlement Class and might be eligible to receive a merchandise certificate worth up to $25 if you are a person who received one or more text messages promoting Payless products between October 29, 2005 and October 4, 2010. If you are a Settlement Class Member and the Court gives final approval to the Settlement Agreement:

You may be entitled to receive a $25 merchandise certificate (a “Settlement Payment”) or a lesser pro rata amount if the total of all claims exceeds $6,000,000.

If you are a Settlement Class Member and would like to receive your Settlement Payment, you must submit a Claim Form, either through the mail or by filling out a claim form on the claims administrator’s website. You will be giving up legal claims against Defendant and other related entities. Your claim must be submitted or postmarked no later than February 6, 2012. To find out more about the terms of the settlement and how to qualify or be excluded—visit paylesstextsettlement.com.

One could argue this lawsuit went into overtime… but it looks like a happy ending… for the employees that is. An announcement this week—that Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation (NPC) has agreed to pay $99 million to settle a nationwide wage and hour class action brought by 7000 Novartis sales reps who allege NPC reps weren’t paid overtime.

The case has been working its way through the courts since 2006, and stems from claims that the sales reps don’t qualify as “outside sales” employees which would make them exempt from overtime pay. This issue has been the source of several wage and hour class actions brought by pharma sales reps from different companies who have alleged that Fair Labor Standards Act exemptions don’t apply to them.

Ok—That’s a wrap for this week. See you at the bar!