The Third Circuit Court of Appeals last month approved an uncapped settlement between the National Football League (NFL) and several former players over head injuries. The court rejected a challenge from objectors who argued the settlement was lacking for those who suffered from the degenerative brain condition known as CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) and finding that the uncapped settlement is fair for the class of retired players.
In a unanimous three-judge decision, written by Circuit Judge Thomas L. Ambro, the Third Circuit affirmed both the class certification for the former players suffering from various ailments tied to repeated head injuries and concussions and affirmed the uncapped settlement reached between the league and class representatives Kevin Turner and Shawn Wooden. The decision comes after several groups of players and individuals opposed the agreement, arguing that the settlement erred by extinguishing potential claims from players diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease linked to symptoms ranging from memory loss and confusion to progressive dementia and that right now can only be diagnosed posthumously.
Under the concussion settlement, former players diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease or Alzheimer’s disease could receive as much as $3.5 million each, while players with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis could receive as much as $5 million each. However, while former players who already have died of CTE will receive $4 million each, the deal excludes those who pass away after a cutoff date, leaving those with no other qualifying conditions nothing.
The Third Circuit said that though some will be dissatisfied with the result, that is the nature of such settlement appeals, noting that the deal will likely provide more than $1 billion to the class of over 20,000 retired players. The court said:
[W]e do not doubt that objectors are well-intentioned in making thoughtful arguments against certification of the class and approval of this settlement. They aim to ensure that the claims of retired players are not given up in exchange for anything less than a generous settlement agreement negotiated by very able representatives. … It is a testament to the players, researchers, and advocates who have worked to expose the true human costs of a sport so many love. Though not perfect, it is fair.
To say this is an imperfect settlement that most likely should have been approved is a pretty good assessment. This litigation was extremely complicated and challenging. The lawyers for the plaintiffs – led by Chris Segers – did a very good job.
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