In April, 2015, a $765 million settlement was reached in a multi-district litigation between the NFL and former players suffering from brain injuries. Members of the class action were awarded between $25,000 and $5 million each. This was based on their age and the severity of their injuries. In November, the lawyers for 90 players who believed the settlement to be unfair asked the federal appeals court in Philadelphia that oversaw the settlement to overturn it. By settling, the NFL avoided having to address allegations that top league executives concealed their knowledge of the dangers of playing football.
The unhappy former players are protesting the settlement for a number of reasons. Originally, the settlement didn’t retroactively compensate the families of former players who have already passed away due to the brain injuries they sustained. Or those who have lived with expensive medical conditions because of the injuries. That has now changed to allow the family members of deceased players to file claims on their behalf. The players also succeeded in getting the $765 million-dollar cap removed from the settlement. What the players are still upset about is that the compensation only applies to those with certain neurological conditions, such as Alzheimer’s and dementia. Ignoring depression and bipolar disorder.
Many believe that the appeals court will not order the settlement to be renegotiated. An issue is that chronic traumatic encephalopathy (C.T.E.), the injury causing these symptoms, is only diagnosable post-mortem. This increases the risk that many players who are suffering depression unrelated to C.T.E. may end up being falsely compensated for their sufferings. Conversely, the representatives for the former players believe that the settlement should be viewed more as an insurance policy, rather than a compensation policy. Therefore it should provide for all former players who are now suffering debilitating brain related injuries.
21,000 retired NFL players are part of the class action. They are expected to receive an average pay-out of $190,000 over the next 65 years, which is the duration of the agreement. The current settlement does not require any proof by those suffering mental impairments that those impairments were directly caused by injuries sustained during their NFL careers. However, post-career injuries will be factored into their expected pay out. As well as the former player’s age, number of season played, and conditions. The highest award of $5 million will go to players under 45 years old, who played five season or more, and require extensive treatment for diseases such as Parkinson’s or Lou Gehrig’s disease. Healthy players will also be eligible for free medical monitoring.
The appeals court is expected to issue a ruling within a few months regarding whether the settlement was fair or not. Payouts to players will begin once the appeals are settled. Attorney’s fees and costs under the settlement have been limited to $112.5 million.