FIFA, others defeat U.S. soccer concussion lawsuit

Fri Jul 17, 2015 5:52pm EDT
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By Jonathan Stempel

(Reuters) - A U.S. judge has dismissed a lawsuit by soccer players and parents seeking to force FIFA and other governing bodies to change the sport's rules to limit the risk of concussions and other head injuries, especially for children.

In a decision on Thursday, Chief Judge Phyllis Hamilton of the federal court in Oakland, California, said the plaintiffs could not use the courts to change FIFA's "laws of the game," noting it was their decision to play soccer.

"Plaintiffs have acknowledged that 'injuries' are a 'part of soccer,'" Hamilton wrote, citing the complaint. "Those who participate in a sporting activity that poses an inherent risk of injury generally assume the risk that they may be injured while doing so."

The judge also said FIFA was not a proper defendant because there was "no connection" between the lawsuit and any activity that the sport's international governing body, which is based in Switzerland, undertook in California.

Claims against FIFA were dismissed with prejudice, meaning they cannot be brought again.

Hamilton said claims against bodies such as the United States Soccer Federation and various youth and club soccer organizations can be brought again if the plaintiffs show they have standing to sue, including by demonstrating injury.

"We will amend the complaint to satisfy the court's order and appeal the FIFA ruling," Steve Berman, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said in an email.

FIFA said in a statement that it welcomed the decision, and through its medical committee would continue monitoring issues affecting players' health. Lawyers for the other defendants did not respond to requests for comment.   Continued...

The logo of soccer's international governing body FIFA is seen on its headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland, May 27, 2015. REUTERS/Ruben Sprich