Former NCAA football player fires lawyer in class-action concussion lawsuit

Adrian Arrington has fired his attorney Joseph Siprut in a class action lawsuit against the NCAA, opposes settlement.

June 10, 2015
Adrian Arrington has fired his attorney Joseph Siprut in a class action lawsuit against the NCAA.

(CNN)The former Eastern Illinois football player who started the class-action concussions lawsuit against the NCAA has fired his lawyer over what he said are weak provisions of a proposed settlement.

Adrian Arrington, who spoke to CNN last year for a series on college sport concussions, said Wednesday that the proposed $75 million settlement doesn't do enough to benefit athletes. The settlement, which was filed in federal court in Illinois in July 2014, still requires a judge's approval to take effect. It was rejected once before in December 2014.

In a statement released through the National College Players Association, Arrington said his lawyer Joseph Siprut didn't keep him informed and didn't keep his best interests in mind.

"The preliminary settlement is completely unacceptable and I never agreed to it," Arrington told CNN. "In fact, the first time I learned about it was in the media. I feel that I have been misinformed and the preliminary settlement doesn't address the reasons I filed the lawsuit in the first place. I would like the judge to reject the preliminary settlement. I plan to secure new legal representation to continue this fight to protect future players in NCAA sports."

"It's more about the NCAA just saying: 'Take this right here and get out of our face,' " Arrington said of the settlement. "It does not help the players who have suffered. This is a life changing thing.

"This has been going on for five years. I'm not asking for a billion or million dollars I just want something to help the players."

Arrington said he changed his mind, in part, because of conversations with Ramogi Huma, president of the National College Players Association, who has been highly critical of the settlement, calling it "shameful."

"It does not actually protect the players any better than the players are being protected now," Huma told CNN last year. "The players are being sold out. The players are being sold out for $15 million in legal fees and the NCAA couldn't be happier."

Siprut, Arrington's attorney, said Wednesday in a statement: "I'm disappointed that one of the class representatives has decided to withdraw support for our settlement, having apparently adopted some of the misguided and inaccurate views of the settlement expressed in corners of the media and legal filings by other third-parties. Over 20 current class representative plaintiffs remain wholly supportive of the settlement, which also has the full support of two retired federal judges who helped us structure the deal. We remain optimistic that we will receive court approval of the settlement. I can't comment further on the specifics of any attorney-client privileged communications at this time."

The concerns were raised in a CNN series last year. The settlement, if approved, would provide no additional restraint on the number of contact practices allowed for college athletes -- the NFL currently has more restraints -- and would not put any money in the pockets of players who were injured. Instead, $15 million will go to the attorneys, and the rest for research and medical monitoring.

The settlement would force the NCAA to institute return to play rules, keeping players who concuss off the field for 24 hours. But the recommended time out is one week, and many doubt the NCAA will enforce the rules. The NCAA told CNN last year that it does not enforce health and safety rules, but leaves that up to the schools. Currently, the NCAA has one rule on the books related to concussions: Schools simply have to have a plan for how to deal with them.

Arrington had several concussions when he played football for Eastern Illinois, and told CNN last year that when he complained of memory loss, seizures and headaches, trainers there simply gave him medicine and told him to keep playing.

Eastern Illinois University told CNN at the time that it wouldn't comment on pending litigation.

Arrington quit the team after his father watched him stumble on the field after a hard hit and coaches were going to put him back in the game.

"I said, 'Adrian's not going back into the game.' " George Arrington told us.

Arrington told CNN he still suffers today.

"I wake up afraid for my life and I want the lawyers and judges to understand that," he told CNN. "I'm mentally unable to provide for my kids -- what was the point of getting that scholarship and degree?"

But being part of the class-action wouldn't have helped Arrington get any compensation for his injuries. He still would have had to sue separately, since the settlement does not address the individual injuries of the players involved.

Not all of the 20-member class has that opportunity. Some of the cases fall out outside the statute of limitations and those athletes will have no legal recourse if the settlement is accepted by a federal judge.

Stanley Doughty is one of those athletes. He was injured twice -- both times going temporarily numb from head and neck injuries --- while playing for the University of South Carolina in 2004 and 2005. He said South Carolina cleared him to play, and it wasn't until he was signed by the Kansas City Chiefs that he learned from a team doctor that his injuries were actually life threatening, and prevented him from ever playing football again.

The proposed settlement is now before United States District Judge John Z. Lee for consideration.