The proposed settlement agreement in the concussion litigation between former football players and the NFL will need to undergo further changes before U.S. District Judge Anita Brody will sign off on it.
Brody issued an order Monday asking the two sides to amend and expand some of the settlement terms, giving lawyers until Feb. 13 to hammer out the details. Attorney Christopher Seeger, co-lead counsel for the former players, and the NFL both expressed confidence Monday that the settlement would receive final approval.
“We intend promptly to discuss with class counsel the points addressed in the order and continue to have a high degree of confidence that this settlement — which has been accepted by more than 99 percent of retirees — will receive final approval and provide important and generous benefits to retirees and their families,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said.
Brody held a “fairness hearing” Nov. 19 listen to objections posed by some former players and their attorneys, as well as a defense of the settlement. Brody already rejected a proposed settlement once, last January, and is now considering an uncapped proposal that provides generous benefits for former players who are suffering from debilitating conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease. The proposal also calls for $75 million devoted to baseline assessments and $10 million dedicated to educational efforts.
Brody’s latest request calls for slight changes to the group of players who would qualify for monetary rewards that she believes “would enhance the fairness, reasonableness, and adequacy" of the deal, according to Monday’s court order. In addition to clarifying some language, Brody instructed the attorneys to give credit to players who competed in NFL Europe and the World League of American Football and to extend benefits to any ex-players who were diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) after death between preliminary approval and final approval.
“We are grateful to Judge Brody for her guidance and continued efforts to protect the rights of all class members,” Seeger said in a statement. “We look forward to finalizing this agreement so that retired players can begin taking advantage of its benefits.”
While Brody did not indicate in her order that final approval of the settlement would be forthcoming following any changes to the deal, Steven Molo, lead counsel for those objecting to the settlement, said he’s “pleased that the court agrees with us that the settlement is deficient. “
Molo and his clients have argued that the agreement is too restrictive and doesn’t do enough to aid players who might be suffering as a result of concussions they experienced while playing but haven’t yet been diagnosed with a debilitating disease.
“We look forward to seeing whether the NFL and Class Counsel will make, at a minimum, the improvements suggested in the Court's order,” Molo said in a statement. “We intend to continue the fight to achieve a fair, adequate, and reasonable settlement for the Class.”