New York Supreme Court Sustains Woman Lacrosse Player’s Personal Injury Claim Brought By RWL Against NCAA
NCAA Rule Prohibiting Protective Helmets Exposed Student-Athlete to Risks That Were “Unreasonably Increased”
Court allows personal injury claim by lacrosse player who sustained multiple concussions
BALTIMORE, MD, September 14, 2017 – A New York court has held that a former Hofstra University lacrosse player from Annapolis, Maryland, Samantha Greiber, may proceed with a claim for negligence against the NCAA because the NCAA’s Women’s Lacrosse Rules left her vulnerable to head injuries. Other defendants include Hofstra University and its women’s lacrosse head coach and athletic trainer.
In an Opinion and Order denying a motion by the NCAA to dismiss the case (New York Court Opinion Denying NCAA MTD), the Supreme Court for Nassau County, New York ruled: “Through its control over the rules of play and equipment, NCAA effectively prohibited the plaintiff from utilizing protective headgear. As the party with authority to make rules concerning the safety equipment utilized by athletes on the field of play, and who undertook to exercise that authority, NCAA had a duty to avoid exposing the plaintiff to risks that were ‘unreasonably increased.’”
Greiber alleges that she suffers from permanent brain injuries resulting from two concussions that she sustained while playing lacrosse at Hofstra. In an Affidavit, she wrote that she “followed all NCAA rules and regulations” and “relied on the NCAA’s extensive experience and expertise” to protect her “health and safety, particularly concerning the potential for serious head injury.” Greiber wrote that she “would have worn a helmet for [her] safety,” but the rules specifically prohibited it.
According to Greiber’s Affidavit: “The NCAA treated me differently because of my gender. Although the NCAA knew from the available medical research that females were more likely to suffer concussions then male players, the NCAA required helmets for men while making them illegal for women, thereby intentionally putting players like me at high risk for the disabling injury I sustained.”
In ruling for Greiber, the Court noted the “wealth of health studies and information regarding athletics-related head injuries available to the NCAA over the course of Ms. Greiber’s college career,” as well as internal NCAA materials establishing the NCAA’s duty to protect its student-athletes. Therefore, the Court found, “the defendant NCAA owed a duty of reasonable care to [Greiber].”
According to Aron U. Raskas, a partner at Rifkin Weiner Livingston LLC in Baltimore, Maryland, one of the firms representing Greiber, this ruling is believed to be the first to hold that the NCAA can be found liable for mandating rules that prevented student-athletes from protecting themselves.
Greiber’s lawyers note that women lacrosse players represent a uniquely vulnerable class of NCAA student-athletes. Dozens of studies demonstrate that the incidence of concussion for women lacrosse players is consistently among the highest of any NCAA sport. Numerous other studies establish that the best available means to prevent women lacrosse players from suffering concussions is to require them to wear protective helmets, just as the NCAA does for male lacrosse players.
Nonetheless, said Raskas, “the NCAA bullishly refused to mandate – or even allow – protective helmets for women, as it does for men. That is sexist. It is discriminatory. And it has caused dramatic injuries to countless young women just like Samantha.”
Greiber’s lawyers at Rifkin Weiner Livingston LLC and Smouse & Mason, LLC, have also filed on behalf of Greiber an Objection to a proposed settlement of NCAA concussion-focused class-action litigation in Chicago because the settlement does not adequately protect college-level women lacrosse players from catastrophic head injuries. (See http://markets.businessinsider.com/news/stocks/Rifkin-Weiner-Livingston-LLC-Former-Lacrosse-Player-s-Objection-To-NCAA-Concussion-Class-Action-Settlement-Seeks-Equal-Protection-For-Women-1002295812)
That Objection asserts that the proposed settlement is not fair, reasonable or adequate because it would require women lacrosse players to release any claim they have to require the NCAA to mandate protective helmets for women lacrosse players or otherwise to educate NCAA institutions, coaches, and players about the benefits of protective helmets. A hearing to determine the fairness of the proposed settlement has been set by United States District Judge John Z. Lee to take place on November 28, 2017, in Chicago.
Samantha Greiber, is represented by Aron U. Raskas, Arnold Weiner, Alan Rifkin, Chuck Fax, and Barry Gogel of Rifkin Weiner Livingston LLC; Roy L. Mason, H. Russell Smouse and Gregory H. Smouse of Smouse and Mason, LLC; and Peter S. Smith of Northport, New York.
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Contact: Aron U. Raskas
Firm: Rifkin Weiner Livingston LLC
Cell Phone: 443-695-1368