Saturday, April 25, 2015 - The NFL has officially reached a settlement with the players union concerning compensation for players who suffered concussion and other related head injuries during their football careers. The litigation regarding the concussions has been especially high profile, with multiple proposed deals protested and nixed before the final settlement was reached.
The class action began with 73 former players filing suit against the NFL in 2011 for not properly caring for or informing players about the serious side effects that could come from head injuries sustained on the field. From that point, the lawsuits continued to pile in until more than 300 were combined in multidistrict litigation against the league. More than 4,000 players, made up of those who retired from the NFL before July 2014, were included as members of the class.
The settlement, originally set for $765 million, signed off by Federal Judge Anita B. Brody as an uncapped deal after players claimed the original proposal was far too small to reimburse all the players affected. It was the third attempt at hammering out a deal after Judge Brody denied the first two proposals to reach her in hopes of approval. With the settlement awards now uncapped, the eventual costs for the NFL could top more than $1 billion in damages for the players.
Judge Brody requested in her denials for certain details to be reconsidered, including a measure that would ensure players would be able to receive examinations even if the money from the settlement fund ran out. She also sought for expanded coverage to affected international players. The changes in the latest settlement agreement resulted in only one percent of members objecting.
Much of the money in the settlement has been allotted for specific prevention purposes, and some is meant to cover certain injuries and diseases. $85 million will be used to create an education program focused on injury prevention, especially for children, and also create a free program for retired players to use that will help monitor and exam their mental health. As for existing conditions, players with Alzheimer‘s or Parkinson‘s could receive as much as $3.5 million, and those with the disease caused by head trauma called chronic traumatic encephalopathy as much as $4 million.
Plaintiffs in the MDL claimed that the NFL had a responsibility to inform players of the head traumas they were enduring while playing football. Players alleged that the NFL had knowledge of these injuries, however relied on the ‘gladiator‘ mentality in the sport to keep players on the field and withheld information that might have convinced them to do otherwise. The traumas incurred by the players have affected their ability to move, remember in the short and long-term, and develop degenerative diseases that have in many cases resulted in suicide.
For those players who still have issues with the signed settlement, there will be a period for them to appeal the ruling and file their own individual lawsuits against the league. Only one case has sought an appeal thus far, though most involved in the MDL believe that Judge Brody‘s thorough process at securing a better deal for the players will prevent the appeal from progressing too far.