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In N.H.L. Concussion Settlement, Owners Win the Fight

Category: Hockey,Sports

There were different legal realities, too. In the N.F.L. case, hundreds of civil actions that about 5,000 players brought were consolidated in the United States District Court for Eastern Pennsylvania. The N.F.L. actively supported that move, and the judge overseeing the case, Anita B. Brody, appointed a well-known mediator to bring the sides together. Just four months after oral arguments in April 2013, an initial deal was announced covering all 20,000 or so retired players.

The former hockey players, meanwhile, won several early decisions in court, but the N.H.L. opposed the creation of a class that would include many more former players. On July 13, Susan Nelson, the judge overseeing the case in United States District Court in St. Paul, denied the former players’ bid to attain class-action status.

That would have made it easier for thousands of other players to join the suit. Instead, the decision effectively limited the size of the group of players suing the league, diluting their leverage. In her decision, Nelson wrote that managing the case as a class-action lawsuit would prove too difficult given that different states had different rules about the medical monitoring the players were seeking.

With the scales tilted toward the league, negotiations, which were largely stalled, advanced. “We gave it a hell of a shot,” Zimmerman said.

Some sports lawyers say that Zimmerman and the other lawyers involved got the best deal they could under the circumstances.

“The N.H.L. case makes the N.F.L. settlement look like a grand slam times 10,” said Paul Anderson, a sports lawyer in Kansas City, Mo. “But the facts in the N.F.L. case were far more egregious, the total number of players at the N.F.L. level was larger, and there was nonstop media reporting about it.”

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