A Pennsylvania federal judge has approved an uncapped settlement in the multidistrict litigation (MDL) between the National Football League (NFL) and about 5,000 former players. Those players were seeking damages for concussions and degenerative neurological conditions resulting from their playing days.
Judge Anita B. Brody granted final approval to the settlement, rejecting objections from some players who said the settlement didn’t do enough to address their medical needs. She stated that five months worth of revisions to the agreement had paid off. Judge Brody stated:
Crucially, this revised deal uncapped the fund to compensate retired players with qualifying diagnoses; the NFL Parties agreed to pay all valid claims over the duration of the settlement regardless of the total cost. In exchange for these concessions, the NFL Parties received heightened anti-fraud provisions to ensure that funds were only disbursed to deserving claimants.
Christopher Seeger and Sol Weiss, co-lead counsel for the plaintiffs, said the players had won a huge victory by ensuring their future security and care. They said in a statement:
Today, these courageous men and their families have made history. Despite the difficult health situations retired players face today, and that many more will unfortunately face in the future, they can take comfort that this settlement’s benefits will be available soon, and will last for decades to come.
The settlement encompasses about 20,000 retired players. The agreement sets aside $75 million for a “baseline assessment program” that provides retired players with free examinations of their neurological functioning and a $10 million education fund intended to promote safety and injury prevention, particularly among children. Class members with neurological diseases will receive damages based on the severity of their conditions.
A former player with Parkinson’s Disease or Alzheimer’s Disease could receive as much as $3.5 million, while players with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative disease associated with head trauma, could receive $4 million. The highest payouts of $5 million are reserved for class members with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) better known as “The Lou Gehrig Disease.”
The class approved by the court includes all living players who retired from the NFL prior to July 2014, when the deal was preliminarily approved. The NFL agreed not to contest any award of attorneys’ fees and costs equal to or below $112.5 million, according to the settlement.
What started as a single class action brought by 73 players in 2011 grew to an MDL containing more than 300 complaints claiming that the NFL fostered a gladiator mentality among players, who were encouraged to play through head injuries. After having preliminarily approved a previous version of the settlement, Judge Brody suggested some changes earlier this year. Judge Brody sought assurances from the NFL that all living, retired players who register for the baseline assessment program would receive examinations even if the funding runs out, as well as coverage for NFL Europe and other international players, among other changes.
Judge Brody was impressed by the agreement and noted that only about 1 percent of class members had objected, while another 1 percent had opted out. She explained further:
For comparison, at least eight times as many class members registered to receive additional information about the settlement as expressed formal dissatisfaction with its terms.
Kevin Turner, a class representative and former running back for the Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots, said he took comfort in the knowledge that the class members will have guaranteed benefits. As many of our readers will know, Kevin is from Prattville, Alabama, and played football at the University of Alabama. Kevin said in a statement:
Words cannot express the sense of satisfaction and relief I feel now that this settlement has been approved by the court. While nothing can change the reality faced by those who suffer from ALS or other devastating neurocognitive illnesses, this settlement will provide the benefits we need to take care of our families and have the best quality of life we are able to have.
Kevin Turner is a brave man. While he has ALS, Kevin is a fighter and has not given up. He is an inspiration to all who know him and also to thousands of others who now know about his story. This settlement will help Kevin and many others. While it’s far from perfect, it appears to be a good settlement.
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