NHL reportedly in settlement talks with former players over brain injuries

Kyle CantlonNHL Editor
(Photo courtesy: Associated Press)
(Photo courtesy: Associated Press)

Attorneys for a group of former NHL players who are suing the league over concussions and traumatic brain injuries have recently engaged in negotiations with representatives of the league, according to TSN’s Rick Westhead.

The report notes that, “Details of the talks are unclear, but one lawyer representing former NHL players confirmed to TSN that there have been settlement talks with the league.”

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In the most recent developments with the case—one alleging the NHL lied to players and withheld information pertaining to the risk of traumatic brain injuries, head trauma, and concussions—a U.S. District Court Judge denied class-action status to the players, meaning that each individual (around 5,000 of them to date) will have to pursue their own lawsuits against the National Hockey League and its powerful team of attorneys. 

This was a big win for the NHL, so the fact they would be engaging in any kind of negotiations after that ruling seems a bit puzzling at first. However, TSN reportedly obtained the transcript from the most recent hearing on Aug. 30, where the judge indeed implied that private settlement discussions were taking place.

“What I am going to suggest is that we, to the extent you want to continue to privately talk to each other about a private resolution, you are welcome and encouraged to do that,” Judge Nelson said in the transcript. “I know that Judge [Jeffrey] Keyes enjoys working with both sides and hopes that you will continue along that path…,” part of the court document read, according to Westhead.

Former NFL lawyer for Jodi Balsam told TSN it is indeed in the NHL’s best interest to start settling cases now because of a likely increased willingness from some of the former players to take a lot less in damages than what they were originally hoping to get in light of the unfavourable class-action decision.

“They’ve won a fairly consequential pre-trial ruling. With that win, the NHL is in the best settlement posture it will be in a while. It may be the best moment for the NHL to consider settling.

“If the NHL decides to go to trial on all these cases, they still have to go through further discovery and depositions, and then prepare to try hundreds of individual cases across the country. Maybe the NHL is spread thin doing that,” said Balsam, who also noted that the NFL agreed to a class-action suit because, “That way, the NFL was able to bar any future claims. The NHL could follow that same strategy.”

The NHL and Gary Bettman have been firm in denying any link between traumatic head injuries, concussions, and CTE — which has been found in the brains of several deceased former professional and amateur hockey players.





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