A federal judge in Philadelphia issued a preliminary rejection of a $765 million settlement of concussion claims by more than 4,500 former NFL players on Tuesday, ruling that the amount agreed upon may be insufficient to cover payouts, medical tests and treatments.
That was a feeling shared by many in the aftermath of the settlement last August and it is a question that U.S. District Judge Anita B. Brody raised in a ruling in which she asked for more detailed financial information on a plan that should cover about 20,000 men for 65 years.
“I am primarily concerned that not all retired NFL football players who ultimately receive a qualifying diagnosis or their related claimants will be paid,” Brody wrote.
Players had said that economists and actuaries supported the settlement figure, but Brody wrote: “Unfortunately, no such analyses were provided to me in support of the plaintiffs’ motion. In the absence of additional supporting evidence, I have concerns about the fairness, reasonableness and adequacy of the settlement.”
Among Brody’s concerns is that not all former players who have degenerative brain disease and other ailments diagnosed will receive help with medical costs. Payouts under the settlement would vary with former players suffering from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease) capped at $5 million; those suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease associated with head trauma, at $4 million; and those suffering from dementia at $3 million.
“We are confident that the settlement will be approved after the Court conducts its due diligence on the fairness and adequacy of the proposed agreement,” Christopher Seeger and Sol Weiss, co-lead counsels for the retired player plaintiffs, wrote in a statement. “Analysis from economists, actuaries and medical experts will confirm that the programs established by the settlement will be sufficiently funded to meet their obligations for all eligible retired players. We look forward to working with the Court and Special Master to address their concerns, as they rightfully ensure all class members are protected.
“We believe this is an extraordinary settlement for retired NFL players and their families, and have received overwhelming support as they have learned about its benefits. We look forward to finalizing this agreement so they can soon begin taking advantage of its benefits.”
The proposed settlement was a surprisingly quick resolution to a case that involved former players and their families, who charged that the NFL concealed the long-term dangers of repeated hits to the head and the resulting concussions and CTE. The league countered that it had issued warnings based on available medical research and that player safety is governed by the collective bargaining agreement with the NFL Players Association.
Under terms of the proposed settlement, the NFL did not admit to any liability or concede that injuries suffered by the plaintiffs were caused by football. Roughly half of the settlement is to be paid out over the first three years, with the balance spread over the following 17.
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