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Attorney for Miss. NFL plaintiffs: Courts should hear concussion lawsuits, not CBA

A group of Mississippi-connected plaintiffs has joined the cascade of concussion litigation aimed at the National Football League.

The Mississippi lawsuit was filed in federal court in Jackson Aug. 28.

Names that jump out among the more than 60 or so plaintiffs, not all of whom are Mississippians, are: former South Panola High School and Alabama linebacker Dwayne Rudd, former Jackson State wide receiver Jimmy Smith, and former Ole Miss halfback and quarterback Perry Lee Dunn, who was a member of the Rebels’ undefeated 1962 national championship team.

The complaint lists long-term chronic injuries, financial losses and expenses as a result of head injuries and concussions. Plaintiffs claim the NFL knew there was evidence that linked repetitive head trauma to long-term neurological problems, but hid that evidence before fraudulently manipulating in the mid-1990s medical research related to the subject. It does not seek a specific amount in monetary damages.

In all, more than 140 similar lawsuits have been field across the U.S. on behalf of nearly 3,400 former players. The total number plaintiffs is almost 5,300 when you include spouses, family members and representatives.

The cases have been consolidated before a federal judge in Philadelphia, Penn.

Philip Thomas, one of two lawyers representing the plaintiffs, said Thursday morning that the wave of lawsuits filed before the one in Mississippi have gotten the ball rolling as far as sorting out a lot of the pretrial issues. Chief among those, Thomas said, is whether the collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and the NFL Players Association should govern player health and safety rules, and not the courts.

The league, in a motion filed in late August, said it should. Plaintiffs’ attorneys will file their response to that in October, Thomas said.

“Our position is that the CBA does not cover this due to the nature of the allegations, the fraud allegations especially, because that’s not something the CBA would contemplate,” Thomas said.

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