After over two months of negotiations with a court appointed mediator, the National Football League (“NFL”) reached a proposed $765 million settlement with over 4,500 players related to concussion related claims. The plaintiffs, retired football players, claimed that the NFL had concealed the complete nature of injuries to the head caused by game play which could result dementia, depression and death. Helmet manufacturer, Riddell Sports, Inc, is not a part to the settlement.
Terms of the NFL Settlement
The terms of the proposed settlement, which is subject to the approval of U.S. District Court Judge Anita Brody, are as follows:
- The NFL will pay $765 million into a compensation program in installments.
- The NFL will pay for the reasonable legal fees of the plaintiffs.
- The settlement would not constitute any admission of wrongdoing by the NFL.
- Thousands of retired players, in addition to the players, would also be eligible for benefits from the program.
- Compensation to individual players will be calculated through a claims process involving court appointed plan administrators and independent physicians.
- Individual awards to players suffering from Alzheimer’s disease are capped at $5 million.
- Individual awards to players suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) are capped at $4 million.
- Individual awards to players suffering from dementia are capped at $3 million.
- $10 million will earmarked for medical research.
- An amount will be earmarked for medical exams and concussion related injury compensation to retired NFL players suffering from concussions as well as their families.
Not All Players are Thrilled with the Settlement Terms
Layn Phillips , the court appointed mediator and former United States District Court Judge, called the settlement a “historic agreement.” Christopher Seeger, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs, called the agreement “extraordinary.” But former Pro Bowl center, Kevin Mawae, was not nearly as impressed and expressed his disappointment on Twitter:
NFL concussion lawsuit net outcome? Big loss for the players now and the future! Estimated NFL revenue by 2025 = $27 BILLION
Is the NFL Concussion Settlement Fair?
While $765 million is a large sum of money and NFL owners were quick to reinforce that sentiment, further analysis may suggest that the NFL may be better served than the players. Doing the math, the settlement would average roughly $165,000 per plaintiff which is not an extraordinary amount of monetary compensation. But that number also includes money not designated for individual player awards nor does it take into account payments that will be made to thousands of other retired players and their families who were not plaintiffs in the lawsuit. So why would the players settle for what may seem to be a paltry sum in comparison to the billion dollar annual business that is the National Football League?
On the other hand, the case against the NFL was not simple to prove and the potential litigation costs would have been extraordinary. Had it not been for the recent suicide of former football great, Junior Seau, many doubted that the lawsuit and the negotiations would have progressed as far as it had to this point. If the lawsuit would continue, many retired players would not be able to receive much needed financial assistance to address necessary and urgent medical treatment. The issue of whether these factors are sufficient to conclude that there is a fair settlement will be determined by Judge Brody, as per the text of her August 29th order.
Order of U.S. District Court Judge Anita Brody
Earlier today, in accordance with the reporting requirements in my order of July 8, 2013, the Honorable Layn Phillips, the court-appointed mediator, informed me that the plaintiffs and the NFL defendants had signed a Term Sheet incorporating the principal terms of a settlement. Judge Phillips also reported that the proposed settlement provides for a payment by the NFL defendants of $765,000,000 to fund medical exams, concussion-related compensation, and a program of medical research for retired NFL players and their families, as well as to pay certain litigation expenses. In addition to this, the NFL will pay court-approved attorneys' fees. Furthermore, Judge Phillips advised me that the parties are preparing to submit a motion seeking preliminary court approval of the settlement that will incorporate the full documentation relating to the settlement.
Of course, I reserve judgment on the fairness, reasonableness, and adequacy of the settlement until the motions for preliminary and final approval of the settlement are filed. At that time, counsel must present a complete explanation and justification for the settlement. Right now, however, I commend the parties and their counsel on their extensive and good faith negotiations and thank Judge Phillips for his diligence in assisting the parties in reaching an agreement.
From the outset of this litigation, I have expressed my belief that the interests of all parties would be best served by a negotiated resolution of this case. The settlement holds the prospect of avoiding lengthy, expensive and uncertain litigation, and of enhancing the game of football.
In light of the proposed settlement by the plaintiffs and the NFL defendants, I will defer ruling on the NFL's motion to dismiss that was argued on April 9, 2013. After conferring with the parties, I will order that counsel submit, as soon as possible, but by a date certain, the full documentation relating to the settlement, along with a motion seeking preliminary approval of the settlement and related plan of notice to members of the settlement class.
AND NOW, this 29th day of August, 2013, the order of July 8, 2013 (ECF No. 5128) is modified to allow the parties to announce the terms of the settlement of the plaintiffs' claims against the NFL defendants. Because the proposed settlement does not include the Riddell defendants, the order of July 8, 2013 remains in effect as to all of the Riddell defendants: they and their counsel must refrain from publicly discussing the mediation process or disclosing any discussions they may have as part of that process.
- Legal Practice:
- Injury - Brain Injury
- US Federal