Judge Approves NFL Concussion Settlement

July 7, 2014

A federal judge on Monday granted preliminary approval to a settlement between the NFL and roughly 4,500 former players who are suing the league for allegedly concealing the long-term health risks of concussions.

Watch League of Denial, FRONTLINE’s investigation into the NFL’s concussion crisis.

The ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Anita Brody clears the way for a vote on the proposed settlement by the league’s roughly 18,000 retired players and their beneficiaries.

“A class action settlement that offers prompt relief is superior to the likely alternative — years of expensive, difficult and uncertain litigation with no assurance of recovery, while retired players’ physical and mental conditions continue to deteriorate,” Brody wrote.

Judge Brody’s decision comes just 10 days after the NFL agreed to remove a cap on any damages it will pay as part of the settlement. In January, she rejected an original settlement of $765 million, saying she did not believe that the $675 million set aside for damages would be enough to compensate every player who might one day require aid.

The agreement allows for payments as high as $5 million for league veterans diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease; as much as $4 million for a death involving traumatic brain injury; and as much as $3 million for players suffering from dementia. It includes $75 million for baseline medical exams for retired players and $10 million for concussion research and education, but it does not require the NFL to admit that it hid any information from players about the dangers of repeated hits to the head.

“This is an extraordinary settlement for retired NFL players and their families — from those who suffer with neurocognitive illnesses today, to those who are currently healthy but fear they may develop symptoms decades into the future,” plaintiffs’ attorneys Sol Weiss and Christopher Seeger said in a statement.

Recently, several players have voiced reservations about the agreement. Last week, a group of seven retired players filed a motion in federal court in Philadelphia, urging Brody to reject the settlement. The players called the agreement a “lousy deal” for players whose symptoms do not qualify them for compensation.

Still, with the cap on damages now removed, many legal experts predict the settlement will win approval from a majority of the league’s retired players. Players will have until October to decider whether to opt out or object to the deal. A hearing on the final settlement is scheduled for November.

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