August 30, 2018 06:35 PM
Federal Judge Susan Richard Nelson told lawyers for the National Hockey League and ex-players who had been part of a concussion lawsuit that she had a plan to move forward Thursday, suggesting a "bellwether case."
Back in July, Nelson ruled that the concussion lawsuit would not be certified as a class-action because with more than 150 former players, including more than a dozen Minnesotans, "resolving these claims in a single class-action would present significant case management difficulties."
Nelson told lawyers Thursday morning they could either remand the cases back to the courts where they were filed or pursue another option that she said would benefit both sides.
"I've taken a hard look. There is a path forward for a bellwether case," Nelson said in the St. Paul courtroom.
A bellwether case could be just one ex-player’s lawsuit tried before the federal court against the league.
The outcome would give the other players with cases a sense of what could happen if they later tried their own suits against the NHL.
Nelson wants both sides to meet and get her a response to the options, as well as a list of possible bellwether (test) cases within the next two weeks. She said she’s setting aside time in April for at least one case to possibly proceed.
"She wants to see the case get heard on the merits, and the league, that's the last thing they want is to have the merits of this dilemma discussed in a courtroom," said Charles Zimmerman, ex-players' lead attorney.
One attorney from the league told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS "no thanks" when asked for comment on the judge's proposal.
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In court, NHL attorney John Beisner raised concerns to the judge that there is no common link between all the cases, saying "normally in MDL (Multidistrict litigation) there is a specific issue to exposure to risk." But the lead lawyer went on to say the ex-players' suits "alleged all sorts of neurocognitive diseases."
Nelson said what she proposed is "not different than in any other mass tort case."
Zimmerman told the court they could find a case that showed the conduct and duty of the league that also showed common issues involving hits and neurocognitive issues.
More than 150 players, including more than a dozen from Minnesota, had been seeking medical monitoring for long-term brain diseases such as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). They claim those diseases are directly linked to the repeated head hits, collisions and punches they sustained during their playing careers.
"They were doing this for the greater good, and this case represented not just them but the greater good of the game, the brethren they've played with and the further players," Zimmerman said.
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman previously said the case had no merit whatsoever.
Updated: August 30, 2018 06:35 PM
Created: August 30, 2018 04:11 PM
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