COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The brother of two-time Ohio State Heisman Trophy winner Archie Griffin is one of the plaintiffs in the latest batch of lawsuits against the NCAA filed by former college players who say they suffer the effects of concussions.
Ray Griffin’s lawsuit, filed Wednesday in Illinois, names the NCAA and the Big Ten. It doesn’t name Ohio State, the school where Ray Griffin played defensive back from 1974-77 before going on to a seven-year NFL career. He is the younger brother of Archie Griffin, who won the Heisman Trophy in 1974 and 1975.
Former Duke player Derrick Lee, former Tennessee player O.J. Owens and former Michigan player Steve Strinko also filed concussion-related federal lawsuits Wednesday. Lee’s suit lists Duke, the NCAA and the Atlantic Coast Conference as defendants. Owens is suing the Southeastern Conference as well as the NCAA. Strinko is suing the NCAA and the Big Ten.
The lawsuits use similar language in saying the defendants “have kept their players and the public in the dark about an epidemic that was slowly killing their athletes” while noting that players suffered repeated concussions that “severely increased their risks of long-term brain injuries.”
A total of 10 concussion-related suits have been filed by former football players against the NCAA since mid-May. The Chicago-based law firm Edelson PC is involved in representing all the plaintiffs in each of these cases.
Christopher Dore, a partner at Edelson PC, said a few more lawsuits are expected early next week and that that the number of suits on this issue could end up filing “dozens, at least” of suits on this issue.
NCAA chief legal officer Donald Remy said in a statement that “these lawsuits, all filed by the same counsel using the exact same language, are mere copycat activity of the cases he filed last month.”
The lawsuits come as a settlement in another concussion case against the NCAA is awaiting approval by a federal judge.
Former Eastern Illinois football player Adrian Arrington in 2011 sued the NCAA over its handling of concussions and it resulted in a proposed settlement that provided no damages to be paid to players for injuries.
The proposal is still awaiting final approval from a federal judge in Illinois. It calls for the NCAA to create a $70 million fund for testing and monitoring former athletes for brain trauma and another $5 million for concussion research.
Arrington opposed the settlement, though other plaintiffs agreed to it.
“Failing to achieve a bodily injury component to the Arrington case settlement, it appears that counsel is attempting to extract a bodily injury settlement through the filing of these new questionable class actions,” Remy said in a statement. “This strategy will not work. The NCAA does not believe that these complaints present legitimate legal arguments and expects that they can be disposed of early by the court.”
Dore said the schools aren’t listed as defendants in some of the cases because states are often immune from these types of lawsuits and state schools share that immunity. Duke, as a private school, doesn’t have that protection.
The suits involving Lee and Owens were filed in the southern district of Indiana. The Griffin and Strinko suits were filed in the northern district of Illinois.
Strinko was a Michigan linebacker from 1971-74. Owens played safety for Tennessee from 2001-03. Lee played cornerback for Duke and lettered in 2000-01.