NFL Submits $914 Million Concussion Settlement to Court

By and | January 7, 2014

The National Football League could spend more than $914 million to settle claims brought by former players over head injuries, according to a proposed agreement submitted for court approval.

The amount includes $675 million to compensate players for a specified list of injuries, $75 million for medical tests, $10 million for educational programs promoting player safety and injury prevention specifically in youth football and $4 million for administrative expenses related to class notices. The NFL also agreed to pay an additional $37.5 million if needed for players plus attorney’s fees of $112.5 million, according to papers filed yesterday in federal court in Philadelphia. A judge previously calculated the deal at $765 million.

“This is an extraordinary settlement for retired NFL players and their families — from those who suffer with severe neuro-cognitive illnesses today, to those who are currently healthy but fear they may develop symptoms decades into the future,” Chris Seeger and Sol Weiss, co-lead attorneys for the retired players, said in an e-mailed statement.

Lawyers for retired players filed the 149-page settlement agreement after negotiating final terms of the deal for more than four months. The settlement covers all of the league’s more than 18,000 living retired players regardless of whether they’ve filed a lawsuit over concussion-related injuries, lawyers for the players said.

NFL Officials

NFL officials declined to comment yesterday on the league’s decision to commit more than $914 million to resolve the concussion cases. The league “supports the plaintiffs’ motion” to have the settlement preliminarily approved, Brian McCarthy, an NFL spokesman, said in an e-mailed statement.

Under the agreement, compensation will be based on a list of qualified injuries including neurocognitive impairment resulting in memory loss, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Lou Gehrig’s disease and death from a progressive disease known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, according to court filings.

Players will be paid based on age and time in the league. For example, a player with one eligible season would get 70 percent less than someone who played more than four seasons in the league, according to the terms of the accord.

Players who contend their mental impairment stems from their time in the league don’t have to actually prove they suffered concussions or that those incidents caused their injuries under the settlement, Seeger said in a phone interview.

5,000 Players

More than 5,000 former football players had sued the league seeking damages for head injuries. The complaints, which were consolidated before U.S. District Judge Anita Brody in Philadelphia, accused the NFL of negligence and failing to inform players of the link between repeated traumatic head impacts and long-term brain injuries, including early onset Alzheimer’s and dementia.

The players claimed the league knew as early as the 1970s about the increased risk of repetitive head injuries and took no meaningful steps to address the issue until 1994. The league later sought to suppress medical literature showing a link between head injuries and post-career brain damage, the players said.

Maximum settlement awards include $5 million for patients with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or Lou Gehrig’s disease, $4 million for death with CTE and $3.5 million for Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, according to court filings. Players suffering from moderate dementia could get as much as $3 million while those suffering from an early form of the disease would be capped at half that amount, according to the filings.

Qualifying Conditions

Under the terms of the agreement, players’ lawyers can only seek to change the list of qualifying conditions once every decade, according to court filings. Seeger said there’s no limit on revising terms on what injuries are compensable if both sides agree.

“If something emerges from a medical standpoint that shows we need to make a new condition compensable, I believe the league would, in good faith, immediately agree to the change,” Seeger said.

Papers filed yesterday seek Brody’s preliminary approval of the accord. A fairness hearing will be scheduled before the judge gives final approval. The NFL has the right to terminate the deal following notice of the number of players choosing to opt out and prior to the fairness hearing, according to court filings. The agreement doesn’t set a threshold for opt outs.

The NFL’s settlement doesn’t end litigation against Riddell Sports Inc., the league’s official helmet provider. Riddell is facing claims from some players that it refused to properly acknowledge or address the concussion threat.

Under the terms of the NFL deal, players who pursue legal action against Riddell and win a judgment in their favor would forgo their right to collect or agree to reduce their NFL claims, according to court filings.

The case is In re National Football Players’ Concussion Injury Litigation, 12-md-02323, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia).

–Editors: Peter Blumberg, Michael Hytha

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