Earlier this month, we reported to you about a lawsuit amongst the National Football League (NFL) and retired athletes suffering from debilitating brain damage, as well as the estate’s of deceased retired athletes.
Thursday, the NFL tentatively agreed to settle the lawsuit for $765 million among its 18,000 retired players. This settlement figure will cover $75 million for medical exams and $10 million to underwrite research and create an education fund, in addition to compensating the victims $675 million. The fund will be in effect for up to 50 years, and the NFL will add more money if the fund ever falls below $50 million.
Both sides have declared this settlement as a win for the retired athletes who were parties to this lawsuit.
A federal judge announced this agreement after months of court-ordered mediation. One of the principal terms of the settlement states that this agreement “cannot be considered an admission by the NFL of liability, or an admission that plaintiffs’ injuries were caused by football.”
The mediator, former federal judge Layn Phillips, called it a “win-win,” because, as he says, “the alternative was for the two sides to spend the next 10 years and millions of dollars on litigation, which would have been great for lawyers, expert witnesses, trial consultants and others. But it would not do much for retired players and their families, who are in need. This resolution allows both sides to join together, do something constructive and build a better game for the future.”
In addition, Layn Phillips said, “this is a historic agreement, one that will make sure that former NFL players who need and deserve compensation will receive it, and that will promote safety for players at all levels of football.”
Former players suffering from severe conditions such as ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, or other severe cognitive impairments will be entitled to payouts as high as $5 million, which the court set as the cap, or highest possible award, and families of players diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) after death could also collect up to $5 million.
While the settlement stems from cases of over 4,500 players, it will only cover any former player who is retired by the time the settlement is finalized by a federal judge over the next few months. Players do not have to prove that they suffered an injury such as a concussion, or any other on-field injury which resulted in their brain illness. In addition, they can apply for more funds if their conditions worsen over time.
The panel determining the benefits will be independent of the NFL and NFL Players Association. In addition, the legal fees are not included in this agreement. A district court will decide what compensation the plaintiff’s can receive for those costs.
NFL Executive Vice President Jeffrey Pash said the agreement was an effort “to do the right thing. This is an important step that builds on the significant changes we’ve made in recent years to make the game safer, and we will continue our work to better the long term health and well-being of NFL players.”
The lawsuits accused the NFL of glorifying the violence of the sport while ignoring health risks, as well as failing to warn players of the long-term consequences that repeated concussions could cause (such as brain damage, or even leaving them prone to depression and suicide).
Over the past few years, the NFL has completely changed its rules, instituting player or team fines, suspensions, and new rules to cut down on neck and head injuries, as well as lowering the number of concussions suffered by players on the field.
Some of the former NFL players involved in this lawsuit have also sued Riddell, the manufacturer of the football helmets, but those disputes are still not resolved. Meanwhile, the NCAA is still negotiating a settlement of a separate case that could involve thousands of college athletes.
For more information, contact a Gacovino Lake attorney at 1-800-246-HURT (4878).