UPDATE 11:51 A.M. WEDNESDAY
Christopher Seeger, the co-lead counsel for the retired NFL players who are part of the class-action settlement with the NFL, said in a statement released to The Post that Strauss and Seau’s family are taking a risk by opting out of the settlement:
“If Mr. Strauss believes the $4 million his client is eligible for under the settlement is insufficient, he can choose to permanently forfeit these benefits and face all the significant risks associated with continued litigation. We would advise any class member against opting out of this agreement, considering the tremendous guaranteed benefits it provides.”
The relatives of former NFL standout Junior Seau, who committed suicide in 2012 after showing signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), will not participate in a proposed class-action settlement between the NFL and thousands of former players who had filed concussion-related lawsuits, ESPN reported early Wednesday.
The Seau family now will attempt to continue with the wrongful-death lawsuit they filed in January 2013 in California, which alleges that the future Hall of Famer committed suicide because of brain disease caused by repeated violent hits over the course of his football career, and that the NFL ignored and concealed evidence of the risks associated with traumatic brain injuries.
In comments made to ESPN, the Seau family’s representatives imply that the proposed class-action settlement between the NFL and the former players is an attempt by the league to make the concussion issue go away without any facts being presented during a trial.
“The family want to know why this settlement seems designed for expediency for the NFL and to ensure that information doesn’t come out,” said Seau lawyer Steven Strauss, a partner in the firm Cooley LLP. “And the Seau family wants the truth to come out. Since this litigation started, there hasn’t been one document produced, there hasn’t been one deposition taken. It seems very clearly designed to nip this in the bud and not have the truth come out, and that’s not acceptable to the Seau family, and it’s not acceptable to Junior’s legacy.”
In August 2013, the league and the more than 4,500 former players who were suing over concussions worked out a $765 million settlement. In January, a federal judge in Philadelphia questioned whether that amount would be sufficient to cover everyone who was involved in the settlement. “The total payout is now unlimited,” ESPN’s Mark Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru wrote in their Seau story.
Strauss underlined the Seau family’s other issues with the proposed settlement to the ESPN reporters:
Strauss said the Seaus concluded that the deal does not address several concerns, including adequate compensation for the descendants of the former players. Seau’s lawyers filed a previous motion objecting to the first proposed settlement and Strauss said the revised deal did nothing to address those issues.
Strauss said Seau’s family, including his four children, is “not suing for his pain and suffering. They’re suing for their own. This settlement doesn’t address that.”
Under the proposed settlement, relatives of some players found to have CTE qualify for compensation up to $4 million.
Strauss repeated concerns that have been voiced by other attorneys, who argued that the negotiations that resulted in the deal lacked transparency. Many believe that the case never should have been treated as a class action because the players and their families have such disparate issues and injuries.
Strauss said he hoped other players might follow the Seau family’s lead and opt out of the deal to force the two sides to negotiate a better deal.
Fainaru-Wada and Fainaru write that it is unclear how many other players will opt out of the deal. Lawyers representing the family of former Chicago Bears defensive back Dave Duerson, who died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest in 2011, “also have complained about the unwillingness of the NFL and lead counsel for the players to share information about how the settlement was reached,” ESPN writes.