NFL settles concussion class action

September 27, 2013 by

Fotolia FootballThe NFL reached a proposed $765 million settlement on August 29, 2013, with the thousands of former players who are part of the multidistrict litigation against the league over its handling of concussions.

The agreement includes compensation for cognitive injuries, the funding of medical exams for retirees, a research program and the payment of attorneys’ fees. The plaintiffs contend that head trauma endured during their careers caused some of them to suffer from dementia, depression, memory loss or a degenerative brain disease called chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

The settlement would include all retired players as of the day the agreement is preliminarily approved. The agreement specifies that the NFL is not admitting that football caused the plaintiffs’ injuries.

U.S. District Judge Anita Brody ordered the league and the plaintiffs into mediation on July 8, weeks before she was scheduled to rule on the NFL’s motion to dismiss arguing that the claims are preempted by a collective bargaining agreement.

The announcement of the deal comes days before a Tuesday deadline for the mediator in the case, former U.S. District Judge Layn Philips, to report to Judge Brody on the results of the settlement talks. Judge Brody said she could have issued a ruling on the NFL’s dismissal motion after that point.

Under the proposal, the NFL would create a $675 million fund to compensate retirees or their families for cognitive injuries. The players would have to show medical evidence of ALS, Alzheimer’s, dementia or severe cognitive impairment to receive money, with exact payouts based on diagnosis, age, number of years played in the NFL and other factors.

Retirees diagnosed with ALS could receive up to $5 million, while those found to have suffered from CTE after their deaths could receive up to $4 million.

Players would not be required to prove they ever had a concussion to collect funds. Retirees who receive payouts from the fund would remain eligible for benefits provided by the current collective bargaining agreement.

The league would pay out half of the fund in the first three years of its existence and the remainder over the next 17 years. If the administrator of the settlement determines that funding is insufficient, he or she could ask the court to require the NFL to pay no more than an additional $37.5 million.

The league would also spend up to $75 million over 10 years on baseline medical examinations for retirees and establish a $10 million research and education fund. Judge Brody would determine the attorneys’ fees to be received by the plaintiffs’ counsel.

Helmet manufacturer Riddell Inc. and a number of related entities are also named as defendants in the litigation. They are not part of the settlement agreement.

Judge Brody said in a statement that she “reserve[d] judgment on the fairness, reasonableness and adequacy of the settlement until the motions for preliminary and final approval of the settlement are filed.”

The case is In re: National Football League Players’ Concussion Injury Litigation, case number 2:12-md-02323, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

Steve Larson
An experienced trial lawyer who handles both hourly and contingent fee cases, Steve has expertise in class actions, consumer cases, antitrust litigation, securities litigation, corporate disputes, intellectual property disputes, unfair competition claims, employment matters, and disputes involving family wealth. Steve regularly represents individuals and businesses in federal and state court and has obtained class-wide recovery in multiple class actions. A veteran practitioner, Steve's clients value his creative approach to resolving complex litigation matters.

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