In a high-stakes case, a federal judge Monday ordered lawyers for the NFL and roughly 4,000 former and current players, who are suing the league over the issue of concussions, to mediation, The New York Times and the Associated Press reported.
U.S. District Court Judge Anita Brody, who sits in Philadelphia, told both sides they would have to try to settle their differences through a mediator she appointed, retired federal judge Layn Phillips.
Brody had been slated to rule on the NFL’s motion to dismiss the case July 22, but Monday said she won’t rule on that until Sept. 3, part of an effort to have mediation get both sides together, The Times reported. The jurist also issued a gag order on the case.
If the pending lawsuits were successful, the NFL could have to pay out billions of dollars in damages. The players allege, and the NFL denies, that the league purposely withheld information about the long-term dangers of concussions.
A number of players, retired as well as still active, committed suicide and were later found to have suffered from CTE, a degenerative brain disease that’s been linked to repeated head injury. Others are suffering from early-onset dementia.
The NFL not only denies the allegations, it argues that the matter is a contract issue that should be handled in arbitration, not court.
Both sides issued statements after Brody ordered the mediation.
“We respect and will comply with the court’s order regarding mediation and will be available to meet with Judge Phillips at his direction,” the NFL said.
“We have received the order and will follow the court’s directive,” the ex-NFL players’ executive committee said. “Per the order, we will have no further comment on this process.”
In complex cases such as this, most of the legal odds makers didn’t believe that the NFL and the players would make any headway resolving their differences.