Time, Money and Decision-Making w/ Chronic Illness

MAW PPP January 28 2013

You’re out of order! You’re out of order! The whole trial is out of order! They’re out of order! That man, that sick, crazy, depraved man, raped and beat that woman there, and he’d like to do it again! He *told* me so! It’s just a show! It’s a show! It’s “Let’s Make A Deal”! “Let’s Make A Deal”! Hey Frank, you wanna “Make A Deal”?

 “…And Justice For All”

 NFL “Concussion Lawsuit” is Settled

The above diatribe is the well-known court-room “speech” given by a young Al Pacino in the 1979 movie, “…And Justice For All,” which propelled him into super-stardom and launched the careers of many a stand-up comic who would go onto make a living impersonating the likes of Pacino, De Niro, Christopher Walken and Sylvester Stallone.

For me, however, Pacino’s masterful performance made a lasting impression as I entered my first year of college and had to come to grips with the reality that life is not fair.  I was reminded of this realization late this past week when I heard the National Football League (“NFL”) had settled its “Concussion Law Suit” with the approximate 4,500 former NFL players and their families for the sum of $765 Million when the NFL’s ANNUAL PROFIT in 2012 was reportedly $10 BILLION, with a probable increase to $20 BILLION over the next few years. Moreover, a principal term of the settlement is that it “cannot be considered an admission by the NFL of liability, or an admission that plaintiffs’ injuries were caused by football” AND the NFL has 20 years to pay the full amount of the settlement, but half of the total must be paid within the first three years and the rest over the next 17 years.  WTF???

At first glance, many people will think $765 Million is a huge sum of settlement money for a case which admittedly had “causation issues” as the NFL was set to claim that many of these former NFL stars could have sustained their brain-damaging blows prior to becoming professionals.  But this lame subterfuge would have been exposed during the “discovery” phase of the litigation when it could have come out that the NFL knew, or should have known, that the brutality inherent in playing in the NFL was DIRECTLY tied to such severe brain injuries as ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), Parkinson’s diseaseAlzheimer’s disease or another severe cognitive impairment such as Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) which has driven several former prominent NFL players to commit suicide.

Further, prior to former players literally killing themselves as a result of various forms of either early onset of Dementia and/or CTE, and doing so in such a manner to preserve their brains by keeping their heads in tact so that their brains could be studied after their suicides, the NFL actually PROMOTED videos of a season’s “Hardest Hits” and they hired inadequate but like-minded entertainment-motivated medical personnel to evaluate the medical safety of a player returning to a game after sustaining a concussion.  Subsequent medical evidence obtained in preparation for the Concussion Lawsuit seemed to strongly suggest that players returning to playing in the NFL too soon after suffering a concussion left them significantly more vulnerable to these disabling brain injuries.  So, this begs the question:  Why did the 4,500 players settle so quickly when the Concussion Lawsuit was only in its infancy, the NFL feared various internal documents being made public which would possibly reveal their real or imputed knowledge of clear “causation” between playing in the NFL and sustaining any of the aforementioned horrific brain injuries, and a trial decision or settlement could cost the NFL anywhere from $5 BILLION to $10 BILLION and incalculable Public Relations problems?

 The answer is: Life is not Fair & Litigation sucks

That man is guilty! That man, there, that man is a slime! he is a *slime*! If he’s allowed to go free, then something really wrong is goin’ on here! [emphasis added]

 “…And Justice For All”

Many of the 4,500 Plaintiffs in the Concussion Lawsuit v. the NFL are suffering so badly they cannot out-maneuver the NFL in a litigation strategy which would have brought them a resolution, but in 5-7 years.  You see, our litigation system favors the strong, healthy and rich, who can afford to drag out lawsuits to such a time and financial cost that a Plaintiff may win the battle but lose the war.   That is exactly what happened with this case and it is a shame because these former NFL players deserve more because, let’s face it, while this Settlement comes with NO ADMISSION OF LIABILITY by the NFL, do you really think the cold-blooded business-tycoon owners of NFL teams decided to gift $765 Million to ex-employees, most of whom played in the NFL before the present owners even owned NFL teams? 

My Battle with the Time and Cost of Litigation

I feel for these gravely injured NFL players because I have been in their shoes in that in 2008 I was “medically harmed” by a certain product which had been placed inside of me during many of my Crohn’s Disease abdominal surgeries.  I first came to notice the problem when I woke up in the middle of the night in such excruciating pain that I called an ambulance to come and take me to the hospital because I thought I had somehow perforated my bowels.  Had that been the case, I was in a time-sensitive life-threatening situation.  When I got to the hospital they alleviated my pain and immediately took a CT Scan.  I will never forget the look on the eyes of the several Radiology Technologists who had gathered to stare (and gasp) at the resulting films of my abdomen wondering if what they were seeing was actually real.  I kept asking for an explanation but they were not permitted to share any results with me; only my doctor could do that.  Soon enough, my doctor came in and explained that somehow this “product” had come loose and was now strangulating my intestines.   Surgery was the only way to untangle the situation and it would take an extraordinarily complicated surgery to ensure I didn’t lose more of my intestines than was absolutely necessary in the entanglement process.

I subsequently had 2 major surgeries in and around 2008 to fix this problem and I eventually joined a lawsuit relating to what appeared to be a faulty product seeking some kind of vindication, acknowledgment and financial relief for the brutal experience I had been put through due to no fault of my own.  During that time period I was in constant pain, endured medical complication after complication and had several medical emergencies all of which compounding medical costs which also left me BROKE and waiting for proceeds from my lawsuit to help me battle the problems allegedly caused by the manufacturer of this product.  But my law suit was complex and involved many procedural and legal issues to be argued and resolved.  Yet, just like the 4,500 NFL players, had a quick Settlement Offer been made, I would have taken it.  As a result of my intense frustrations, for the first time in my life I started to get depressed over my medical situation.

I didn’t know it at the time but I was suffering from Depression and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder from having too many serious surgeries and medical emergencies in too short a time frame and it all came out one day seemingly out of nowhere while laughing and talking with one of my closest friends on the phone.  While talking about sports and laughing, I just started crying and then I couldn’t stop.  I knew, like I imagine those deceased NFL players must have known; I needed help and I needed it quickly.  What I thought would come from the manufacturer of the alleged faulty product, came from a kind psychologist who recognized my symptoms over the phone and began seeing me immediately.  Thankfully, I got the help and support I needed and while my life was VERY difficult for several years, I am still alive.  It turns out I was torn between the medical and financial pain I was feeling and the acknowledgment and accountability I sought to make me “whole again.”

A Confidential Settlement Agreement prevents me from revealing more specific details about my lawsuit but I can tell you that my case was not settled for several years and I received the actual settlement monies a year or so after the case was actually settled due to the necessity of voluminous paperwork to execute.  At times, waiting for meaningful advancements in my case was excruciatingly painful.  It seemed the longer it took to resolve, the further away we got from the surgeries, pain, emergencies and medical bills.  By then, I also had to deal with MANY more medical problems related to my autoimmune Crohn’s Disease which were unrelated to the law suit.  But looking back it was as if the people who were responsible for ruining a few years of my life had gotten off without any significant consequence.  For a while I tried to understand how that could happen but I had no choice but to “turn the page” on that chapter of my life and move forward, for if I tried to make peace with the grave injustice I suffered, I’d be a basket case and in no way would I have the “resolve” I would need to deal with the numerous medical adversities which would come next.

Time, Money and Decision-Making w/ Chronic Illness

Life is not fair and I wish there was someone to talk to about that but there is not.  Based on my experience, solace can only be found within and to do that sometimes takes the nerve and short memory of the top “Closer” in Major League Baseball.  Accordingly, it simply doesn’t pay to ponder injustices like those just committed against these 4,500 former NFL players but I’m sure as hell going to share my opinion about it.  As Al Pacino’s character in “…And Justice for All” so eloquently stated, “something really wrong is goin’ on here!” But, given the injustices of our justice system, these brave 4,500 NFL players had no choice but to grab the quick “significant” settlement monies because when you have a chronic or serious illness which requires immediate attention, time and money necessarily affect decision-making and that reality is not the foundation for a long-run litigation strategy.  In that regard, I wish God’s speed to these former NFL players who brought me so many wonderful memories and made me a life-long NFL fan.  I just wish they were treated with more dignity and respect just as I feel about my own case.  But Life is not fair.

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