The Pro Football Concussion Report

A Fan's Look at Head Injuries and the Concussion Crisis in Football

Settlement Spotlight: Judge Anita Brody

Federal Judge Anita Brody presides over the NFL concussion litigation.
Federal Judge Anita Brody presides over the NFL concussion litigation.

01.07.15

Hopefully in 2015 we’ll see the the resolution to what has become perhaps the largest brain injury related lawsuit in history, the NFL concussion litigation. Early in the lawsuit, some experts predicted that the case could carry on for as long as twenty years, with lawyers for both sides battling over carefully crafted legal points while the plaintiffs, former NFL football players continued to suffer from brain injuries allegedly caused by years of hard-hitting tackle football. But one person, presiding over the process, may have made the tremendous difference in moving the litigation swiftly toward resolution. Federal judge Anita Blumstein Brody was thrust into the spotlight as she balanced the demands of 4,500 former NFL players and the potential defenses offered by lawyers for the wildly-popular National Football League. Fortunately, Judge Anita Brody’s background indicated that she had been suitably prepared for the enormous task.

A graduate of Columbia Law School, Judge Brody worked for the New York State Attorney’s office and later practiced family law prior to becoming a state judge. After 8 years on the bench in Pennsylvania, Brody lost a bid for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in 1989 (which at the time was called “the nastiest and most expensive judicial campaign in state history”). Since then though, Judge Anita Brody has led a long, successful career as a federal judge. Originally recommended for federal appointment as a judge by Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter in 1990, Brody was finally nominated by outgoing President George H. Bush in 1992.

 

From the beginning of the NFL lawsuit, it appears that Judge Brody was enthusiastic to have attorney Chris Seeger lead the plaintiffs team in the NFL concussion case. Brody may have been familiar with Seeger’s impressive track record of successfully leading other mass tort or MDL cases involving billions of dollars and sometimes more than 100 law firms. According to David Lat’s 2012 piece in Above the Law, A Portrait of a Plaintiffs’ Firm: Seeger Weiss, Judge Brody commented on the record that “I would very much like one of co-lead counsel to be Mr. Seeger . . . I have to tell you, the ratings of people who have had MDLs [multidistrict litigations] with you involved have been very, very high, your law firm.”

Brody’s early enthusiasm may have been tempered later when she quickly rejected a $765 million settlement that Seeger, his team and the NFL’s attorneys had put together. Brody wrote in her opinion at the time of the rejection:

 

“I am primarily concerned that not all retired NFL football players who ultimately receive a qualifying diagnosis or their (families) … will be paid.”

 

Judge Brody has presided over the litigation with a firm hand and a push toward settlement. An early, much anticipated courtroom face-off between constitutional law heavyweights David Frederick (for the players) and Paul Clement (for the NFL) resulted in a draw of sorts. Recognizing complicated issues on both sides of the table, in July 2013 the judge appointed retired U.S. District Judge Layn Phillips as mediator and ordered both sides to try and work out an agreement.  That mediation resulted in the August 2013 settlement announcement referenced above, which would be rejected by Judge Brody in January 2014. Per the judges direction, both sides eventually hammered out a new settlement agreement that addressed Brody’s objections. In July 2014, Judge Brody granted preliminary approval to a revised deal that included “uncapping” the funds available to pay qualified claims. A fairness hearing followed in Brody’s court during November of 2014, and the points presented in that hearing are currently being weighed by the judge.

On the personal side, Brody and her husband, the late Dr. Jerome Brody, who was a music lover, hematologist and professor of medicine at the Medical College of Pennsylvania raised three children who have mainly followed in their parents’ foot steps. Daughter Marion is a Philadelphia physician and associate professor, focusing first on internal medicine, and now specializing in radiology. Another daughter, Lisa, is an attorney, employed as general counsel for the large French chemical company, Arkema. Lisa’s husband, Steven Bizar, is also an attorney, practicing for the Pennsylvania firm, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney.

Judge Brody’s brother, James Blumstein, is a well-known constitutional law professor at Vanderbilt University Law School. Blumstein is known in legal circles as an advocate for tort reform. From the 1930′s to the 1980′s, Professor Blumstein and Judge Brody’s parents owned and operated the popular Pennsylvania summer camps, Camp Swago and Camp Swatonah.

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