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$765M to settle NFL concussion suits not enough to cover claims: Judge

Posted On: Jan. 14, 2014 12:00 AM CST

$765M to settle NFL concussion suits not enough to cover claims: Judge

A federal judge has rejected preliminary approval of the National Football League's $765 million settlement of concussion-related liability claims, saying the amount seems inadequate to cover more than 20,000 retired professional football players who may have suffered brain injuries.

“I am primarily concerned that not all retired NFL football players who ultimately receive a qualifying diagnosis or their related claimants will be paid,” U.S. District Court Judge Anita B. Brody said in a court filing Tuesday.

The settlement agreement was denied without prejudice. The Philadelphia-based judge ordered the NFL to provide documentation from its “economists” who have “conducted analyses to ensure that there would be sufficient funding to provide benefits to all eligible class members.”

The ruling concerned the NFL Aug. 29 announcement that it had reached a multimillion-dollar settlement agreement with more than 4,500 retired players who sued the league over concussion-related brain injuries. In court filings, the players alleged the league misled them about the dangers of concussions and said they suffer from various neurological and cognitive problems related to head injuries suffered while playing in the NFL.

The settlement is meant to cover all NFL players — estimated at more than 20,000 athletes — who have retired as of the date the settlement receives final judicial approval.

In Tuesday's order, Judge Brody said she is concerned about the fixed amount of money that the NFL has earmarked for the settlement.

The proposal includes $75 million for baseline medical exams for the retired players, $675 million to compensate players and the families of players who suffered brain injuries, a $10 million fund for concussion research and education, and the payment of legal fees for the players, according to the tentative agreement.

The league could add up to $37.5 million to the players' injury compensation fund under the agreement if the $675 million is insufficient to pay claims.

The amount paid to retired players “will be based upon the specific diagnosis, as well as other factors including age, number of seasons played in the NFL and other relevant medical conditions,” according to the agreement.

In particular, Judge Brody said she is concerned that the $675 million fund won't be enough to cover “a 65-year lifespan for a settlement class of approximately 20,000 people.”


“Retired NFL football players with a qualifying diagnosis of Parkinson's disease, for example, are eligible for a maximum award of $3.5 million,” while those with a qualifying diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis “may receive up to $5 million,” the judge said in the order. “Even if only 10% of retired NFL football players eventually receive a qualifying diagnosis, it is difficult to see how the monetary award fund would have the funds available over its lifespan to pay all claimants at these significant award levels.”

Attorneys in the concussion litigation have said the proposed settlement will not stop retired players from moving forward with concussion-related workers compensation claims that they have filed in various states.