You probably heard that Dan Marino is suing the NFL over concussions; that the Hall of Fame member and former Miami Dolphins joined 14 other former players who are seeking compensation from the NFL for brain damage sustained over years of playing in the league.
The lawsuit, Bishop et al. v. NFL, filed in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia, “seeks compensation and financial recovery for the long-term/chronic injuries, financial losses, expenses and intangible losses suffered by Plaintiffs as a result of Defendant’s carelessness, negligence, intentional misconduct and concealment of information directly related to each Plaintiff’s injuries, risk of injury and losses.”
But Marino is just one person joining the over 4,000 former NFL players already suing the league (a lawsuit the remains in limbo after a $765 million settlement was rejected). So what kind of impact could his involvement have? And since he isn’t joining the larger class-action lawsuit, what does this mean for the players already suing the league?
Marino’s popularity will bring more attention to the players
Most of the players in the class-action lawsuit against the league played before a lot of current football fans were even alive. There are plenty of other hall of famers in the lawsuit, such as Tony Dorsett and Eric Dickerson, but no one that has even close to the status of Marino. Bringing Marino’s status to the case will certainly bring more media attention, and make it harder for skeptics to dismiss the case. Also, Marino has made millions through his analyst deals with CBS. It’s not like he’s reliant on the settlement to provide healthcare coverage like many of the plaintiffs.
The more players that sue, the more likely a larger settlement
Judge Anita Brody rejected the NFL’s $765 million settlement with players this past January, despite the fact that the settlement was agreed upon by the league, the plaintiffs and an objective third-party mediator. Brody rejected the deal because she thought it would not provide adequate coverage for all the players. "It is difficult to see how the Monetary Award Fund would have the funds available over its lifespan to pay all claimants at these significant award levels." With Marino’s case, there are now 15 more players who would require compensation.
And a settlement is still the most ideal outcome for both sides of this lawsuit. For the plaintiffs, there are players who are in dire needs of health care funds, such as those suffering from Parkinsons. For the NFL, a settlement means not having to go to trial, at which point the league would be forced to testify under oath about allegations that the league know that football caused head injuries and lied to players about the risk of head injury, including league doctors providing false medical information to athletes.
The legislative process could be drawn out for years
Because Marino and the 14 other players opted to file a separate case, there are two options with what could happen to their litigation. First, they could be consolidated into the larger class-action lawsuit. They have the same lawyers as the larger suit, and a lot of the claims outlined are similar to claims in the class-action lawsuit. The other option, is that the suits will be litigated separately, which could draw out the process for years and years with double the paperwork. There's also the option that after a settlement, retired players will opt-out of the case and seek individual damages, which would delay the case even more.
There’s a lot we still don’t know
First and foremost, we don’t know why Marino joined the lawsuit. That's probably the most important. The suit alleged that Marino, “sustained repetitive, traumatic sub-concussive and/or concussive head impacts during NFL games and/or practices.” But we don’t know if Marino is currently experiencing any symptoms of brain injury.
We also don’t know why Marino and the 14 other former NFL players didn’t join the existing class-action lawsuit (because the case hasn’t been settled, former players can still become plaintiffs). The 15 players are represented by the Philadelphia law firm currently handling the larger class-action lawsuit, and as we mentioned, a lot of the claims in this new suit are similar to claims in the older suit.