Over the last three years, 4,500 former NFL players filed lawsuits against the league alleging that for many year, the NFL deceived them as to the risks of repeated concussions and traumatic brain injury (tbi), resulting in numerous long term neurological conditions and the long term effects of these conditions, including dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease, chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), Parkinson’s Disease and ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), also known as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease.” The lawsuits were consolidated into once class action and filed in the U. S. District Court in Philadelphia before Justice Anita Brody.
Several months ago, attorneys for the NFL and attorney's for the players worked out a tentative settlement of the lawsuits, which included the following: A cap of $675 million for financial awards to ex-players for pain and suffering arising out of their medical conditions, (without the requirement to prove that the conditions were caused by the repeated concussions); $75 million for baseline neurologic and neuropsychological testing for any legible retired players; and $10 million from the league for programs to promote safety and the prevention of head injuries. However, Justice Brody balked at approving the settlement last fall, contending that the $675 million cap on payments to former players was inadequate and needed to be bolstered. Certainly, the NFL’s annual estimated revenue of $10 billion reflects the fact that the $675 million over the 65 year life of the agreement would not even make a dent in the league’s finances. Further, it is expected that the number of players who will make claims for brain injuries incurred during their playing careers will continue to escalate as awareness of the damage from repeated concussions increases.
The revised agreement presented to Justice Brody removes the cap of $675 million for claims by ex-players. Former players will be notified of the terms of the settlement and provided with an opportunity to accept the terms or “opt out”, allowing the individual players to file their own lawsuits. Justice Brody will conduct a hearing this fall to determine whether the settlement is now in the best interests of the former players and is fair and adequate. The settlement as presently constituted provides awards of $3.5 million for Parkinson’s disease; $4 million for a diagnosis after a player’s death of CTE; and $5 million for ALS. Additionally, the settlement would encompass payouts for early dementia and “severe decline in cognitive function”, although it is unclear how those terms are defined or what the amount awarded for those diagnoses would be.
We will follow the evolution of the settlement between the NFL and the players' attorneys and report further after the notification period to the ex-NFL players.