Posted August 29, 2013

NFL, retired players reach $765 million settlement in concussion lawsuits

NFL safety, Roger Goodell

The NFL has protected its shield -- and its path to prime time -- in a historic settlement.

The NFL has protected its shield — and its path to prime time — in a historic settlement. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

In what seems like a major victory for the league, the NFL and over 4,000 retired players have agreed to settle all pending lawsuits in a massive stretch of litigation related to allegations that the NFL did not properly warn former players of the dangers of concussions despite prior knowledge of those dangers, and did not do all it could to help those men whose lives had been negatively affected by those injuries. The settlement comes after more than two months of intense negotiations under the supervision of former United States District Judge Layn Phillips, the court-appointed mediator in this case.

The settlement will be submitted for approval to United States District Judge Anita B. Brody, who has been presiding over the cases in Philadelphia. If it is approved, the NFL and NFL properties will pay a total of $765 million for injury settlements and medical benefits for retired players, to fund medical and safety research and to pay all litigation expenses.

“This is a historic agreement, one that will make sure that former NFL players who need and deserve compensation will receive it, and that will promote safety for players at all levels of football,” Judge Phillips said in a statement released Thursday morning by the Alternative Dispute Resolution Center. “Rather than litigate literally thousands of complex  individual claims over many years, the parties have reached an agreement that, if approved, will provide relief and support where it is needed at a time when it is most needed. I am deeply grateful to Judge Brody for appointing me as mediator and offering me the opportunity to work on such an important and interesting matter.”

KING: Concussion lawsuit settlement a win for NFL

Judge Brody is expected to hear any appeals and potentially approve the settlement within a few weeks.

“Approval of the settlement will require Judge Brody to determine that it is fair, reasonable and adequate in light of the claims and defenses, and the expense, uncertainty and time inherent in litigating the claims, particularly given the benefits provided by the agreement,” Judge Phillips said. “There is no question that this settlement will provide benefits much sooner, and at much less cost, for many more retirees, than would have been achieved through extended litigation. For these and other reasons, I will strongly endorse this settlement in my report to Judge Brody.”

It is a class settlement, with no admission of liability from the NFL or NFL Properties, tacit or otherwise. The league would pay half the settlement amount over the next three years, and the second half over the following 17 years. Inherent in the settlement is the seeming difficulty for other potential plaintiffs to file new claims down the road.

“For a variety of reasons, the underlying theory of this lawsuit about what took place in the past would be difficult to replicate in the future,” the statement said.

The $765 million is estimated to be distributed as follows:

  • A capped amount of $75 million for baseline medical exams
  • A $675 million fund to compensate ex-players or the  families of ex-players who have suffered cognitive injuries
  • A $10 million research and education fund
  • A capped $4 million fund for the costs of giving notice to all the members of the class
  • $2 million to compensate the Settlement Administrator for the next 20 years.

According to TheMMQB.com Editor-In-Chief Peter King, legal fees will be paid separately, so the final bill for the NFL could exceed $1 billion.

“Retired players will have the opportunity to participate in baseline medical exams,” the statement says, explaining the baseline process. Players with demonstrated cognitive injury, now or in the future, will be able to obtain a monetary award. The decisions regarding who qualifies and the amount of the award will be made by independent doctors and fund administrators agreed upon by the parties, and the federal court in Philadelphia will retain ultimate oversight.”

A great many questions remain to be answered, but it would seem in the abstract that both parties agreed to settle for the sake of expediency. A series of cases could have been a far larger financial nightmare. The NFL grosses approximately $9-10 billion per year, and could double that based on new television deals by the end of the decade.

“This is an extraordinary agreement that will provide immediate care and support to retired players and their families,” lead plaintiffs’ attorney Christopher Seeger of Seeger Weiss LLP said in the statement. “This agreement will get help quickly to the men who suffered neurological injuries. It will do so faster and at far less cost, both financially and emotionally, than could have ever been accomplished by continuing to litigate.”

18 comments
Matthew W
Matthew W

So after a career of using their body as a missile to knock down other humans, ex players are just finally realizing the work was dangerous. 


They knew the risks and decided it was worth it. They deserve no sympathy.

xxman
xxman

If anyone should have known the dangers of reckless contact with human heads, it's the coaches and their medical staffs, the players themselves and their parents.  This begins in grade school and only magnifies itself as these kids get older and bigger.  Anybody with half a functioning brain knows the risks.  This was just another game all these people play, and the players and lawyers are lovin' it.  Got a headache, buddy?  Here - have a few million and call me in the morning.  Like they need more money.....especially the lawyers and doctors.  It's not as if there aren't plenty of previous examples of concussions in football.  What a crock of horse-apples.

KennethB.Jacobs
KennethB.Jacobs

This sounds like a big number but I have the uneasy feeling than when it comes down to individual cases, it will prove to be inadequate.  The reality is that medical expenses can go right off the clock but that's another whole story all by itself. Time will tell whether ex-players got a good deal.

RobertJakubeck
RobertJakubeck

I'm a former meat cutter and worked in the cold cutting rooms. The company I worked for didn't tell me that I could develop an arthritic condition, which I did. I guess I'll sue like the bunch of football playing hypocrites.

HE_MAN
HE_MAN

The players are a bunch of hypocrites.  The complain about how the NFL is sissying up the game by not allowing them to launch at a quarterback’s head or lead which their head when they make a tackle, yet they sue the NFL for being responsible for their own decisions back when those hits were legal.

I feel bad for the players individually, but they all had the opportunity to weigh the risks when they were playing the game.  They chose fame and money over safety.

Aguilas
Aguilas

Players don't deserve a cent.  We learn as kids this is a dangerous game.  They continue for the fame and fortune.  When that's all gone then they suddenly realize how hurt they are!?  I usually side with the little guy...not in this case.

DjangoZeaman
DjangoZeaman

I hope it's enough. I'm worried it won't be.

What about for future players? Are they now "warned" and will have no redress when suffer serious brain injuries down the road. If so then the NFL got off very, very cheap in all of this.

x72
x72

Concussed & rich or live a life flipping burgers concussion free? Players choice

longbordr52
longbordr52

Drop in the bucket for an enterprise that generates BILLIONS of dollars in revenue every year, and is expected to triple in annual profitability over the next 10 years. I sure hope this amount is enough to cover the medical expenses of those 4000 former athletes in need, but I doubt it. If every penny was allocated appropriately (which it won't be because of professional fees and inevitable mishandling of the funds), it averages out to about $191,000 per athlete. Roughly. For anyone that's encountered head trauma and the medical expenses involved, a couple hundred grand can be gone in a flash paying for medical expenses.

I haven't read the court documents, and I'm sure most of them are either unavailable or heavily redacted. But this sounds like the all-too-common situation of when those bringing the class-action suit cannot afford (financially or medically) to wait another 3 years until the litigation and appeals process runs its course. Settlement was inevitable in this case, but I'm a little surprised the overall amount was so low. The NFL must have supremely good attorneys working for it.

Jerkzilla
Jerkzilla

So the long talked about expansion team in LA will be charged a $756million franchise fee.  OK.

C-Diddy
C-Diddy

Reading that game me a headache.

Richard--Ramirez
Richard--Ramirez

Breaking News: football is dangerous, worried about concussions don't play. 

Solomon
Solomon

Definitely some truth to your comment, but to me there is another side to that coin. You can blame the players for being reckless, but not for coaches and medical staff who looked at concussed players on the sideline and told them they just got their bell rung so sniff some smelling salts and get back in there. Especially when we know concussed players have diminished neurological function at the time of injury. Someone needed to hit the brakes and keep them out. In my opinion, that's on the league.

Charlie19
Charlie19

@longbordr52  you don't need supremely good attorney's when you have time and money on your side. 

RobertJakubeck
RobertJakubeck

He probably meant the players, who FOR THE MOST PART, are a bunch of thugs.