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January 27, 2009 12:53 PM

Covington Guides NFL to Settlement in Stringer Case

Posted by Zach Lowe

The Am Law Daily admits it had been years since we thought about the sad story of Korey Stringer, the 27-year-old Minnesota Vikings lineman who died after suffering heatstroke during training camp in the summer of 2001. Until last week, that is, when Stringer's name was back in the news after authorities in Kentucky charged a high school coach in the heat-related death of a 15-year-old player

Now, in a weird coincidence, comes an announcement from the National Football League and Stringer's widow, Kelci, that they have settled the lone remaining claim in Kelci Stringer's wrongful death suit against the league.

Covington & Burling's Gregg Levy, regular outside counsel to the NFL, advised the league in the settlement; lawyers from Waite, Schneider, Bayless & Chesley (including torts kingpin Stanley Chesley) represented the Stringer family.

Financial terms were undisclosed, and the lawyers wouldn't comment beyond a brief statement the two sides released on Monday. The NFL did agree to help Kelci Stringer's efforts to create a heat-illness prevention program as part of the settlement.

That leaves just one suit alive in the Stringer case, a claim against equipment maker Riddell in which Kelci Stringer claims the company failed to warn players that wearing its helmets and shoulder pads in hot weather could create health risks, says Paul De Marco, a partner at Waite Schneider. 

"The case will proceed against Riddell full-speed ahead," De Marco says.

Robert Tucker and Scott Kelly of Tucker Ellis & West represent Riddell.

A state trial court judge previously dismissed Stringer's claims against the Vikings, and the federal judge in the Riddell-NFL matter dismissed all but one of her claims against the league, court records show. Plaintiffs attorneys at first tried to file a class action on behalf of NFL players, but a judge declined to certify the class. Kelci Stringer also filed several claims against the NFL, charging the league with failing to exercise its duty to care for the players, court records show.

The league successfully argued that the courts had no jurisdiction over those claims since they are related to working conditions governed by the league's collective bargaining agreement.

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