The NFL has reached a tentative $765 million settlement over concussion-related brain injuries among its 18,000 retired players, agreeing to compensate victims, pay for medical exams and underwrite research. A federal judge announced the agreement Aug, 29, which came after months of court-ordered mediation. More than 4,500 former athletes — some suffering from dementia, depression or Alzheimer’s that they blamed on blows to the head — had sued the league, accusing it of “concealing the dangers of concussions and rushing injured players back onto the field while glorifying and profiting from the kind of bone-jarring hits that make for spectacular highlight-reel footage.”
The NFL has long denied any wrongdoing and insisted that safety has always been a top priority. Under the settlement, individual awards would be capped at $5 million for men with Alzheimer’s disease; $4 million for those diagnosed after their deaths with a brain condition called chronic traumatic encephalopathy; and $3 million for players with dementia. Any of the approximately 18,000 former NFL players are eligible under the terms of the settlement.
Senior U.S. District Judge Anita Brody in Philadelphia will have to approve the settlement. Apparently, the terms of the settlement mean the NFL won’t have to disclose internal files about what it knew about concussion-linked brain problems and when they knew it. The workings of the league’s Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Committee, which was led for more than a decade by a rheumatologist, may remain with the NFL. Interestingly, the NFL has taken the position in this case that individual teams bear the chief responsibility for health and safety under the collective bargaining agreement, along with the players’ union and the players themselves.
Riddell and related entities such as Easton-Bell Sports Inc. are not part of the NFL settlement. The NFL’s settlement, if approved, will leave Riddell Inc. as the litigation’s sole remaining target. Any damaging discovery revelations in this case would hurt the helmet manufacturer, not just in this case, but in all current and future lawsuits brought by college and high school players, as well as players at the youth-league level. The Plaintiffs claim that Riddell, like the NFL, failed to warn them that concussions present long-term risks to brain health. I would not be too surprised if Riddell settles with the Plaintiffs in the current case.
Sources: Bigstory.ap.org and Law360
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