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Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(a) lays out four threshold requirements for certification of a class action: (1) numerosity; (2) commonality; (3) typicality; and (4) adequacy of representation. The parties seeking class certification bear the burden of establishing by a preponderance of the evidence that the requirements of Rule 23(a) have been met. If that occurs, courts consider whether the class meets the requirements of one of three categories of class actions in Rule 23(b). Under a Rule 23(b)(3) class action, a court considers whether: (1) common questions predominate over any questions affecting only individual class members (predominance); and (2) class resolution is superior to other available methods to decide the controversy (superiority).
The National Football League ("NFL") has agreed to resolve lawsuits brought by former players who alleged that the NFL failed to inform them of and protect them from the risks of concussions in football. The District Court approved a class action settlement that covered over 20,000 retired players and released all concussion-related claims against the NFL. Objectors have appealed that decision, arguing that class certification was improper and that the settlement was unfair.
Was the class certification proper?
The court held that the district court properly certified a class in an action by former football players against NFL, arising from allegations that the league failed to inform and protect them from the risks of concussions, as the requirements of Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(a) were satisfied, and the predominance and superiority requirements under Rule 23(b)(3) were also met. Moreover, approval of the parties' settlement was proper under Rule 23(e)(2) because the terms thereof, including an uncapped monetary fund that provided compensation for certain diagnoses, an assessment program for examinations of eligible retired players, and an education fund, were fair, reasonable, and adequate. The deferral of counsel fees, and a clear-sailing provision regarding such fees, were not unlawful or violative of due process, and did not preclude the settlement approval.