The removal two weeks ago of a $675 million cap on damages paved the way for a federal judge to grant preliminary approval of an agreement between the National Football League and former players that would settle a landmark concussion lawsuit filed at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
Once Judge Anita Bryan makes her final approval, hundreds of millions of dollars will become available to cover medical expenses for the next 65 years for retired NFL football players suffering from long-term consequences of concussions sustained while on the field.
“This agreement will give retired players and their families immediate help if they suffer from a qualifying neurocognitive illness, and provide peace of mind to those who fear they may develop a condition in the future,” said the plaintiffs’ counsel Christopher Seeger and Sol Weiss in a joint statement. “This settlement guarantees that these benefits will be there if needed, and does so without years of litigation that may have left many retired players without any recourse.”
The agreement creates a settlement class with more than 20,000 members consisting of three kinds of claimants, including all retired players for the NFL, representatives of any retired players that are either deceased or incapacitated, and close family members or other claimants that can properly prove their right to sue by virtue of their relationship with a retired player.
The settlement also defines the qualifying diagnoses that will grant the claimants access to funding for medical expenses, including dementia, Alzheimer's Disease, Parkinson's Disease, ALS or death from brain trauma.
A $75 million baseline assessment program will provide evaluations for the retired players to determine the existence and extent of any cognitive deficits.
"In the event that retired players are found to suffer from moderate cognitive impairment, they may receive certain BAP Supplemental Benefits in the form of specified medical treatment and/or evaluation, including counseling and pharmaceutical coverage," the settlement reads.
The uncapped monetary award fund will disperse cash for the next 65 years to retired players who either already have a qualifying diagnosis or receive one in the future. The qualifying diagnoses and their maximum monetary award levels are as follows:
- Early dementia ($1.5 million);
- Moderate dementia ($3 million);
- Alzheimer’s Disease ($3.5 million);
- Parkinson’s Disease ($3.5 million);
- ALS ($5 million);
- Death ($4 million).
"The new settlement ensures that there are sufficient funds available to pay all claims through the 65-year term of the settlement and improves the manner in which diagnoses are made to protect against fraud," writes Bryan in the published memorandum.
The settlement establishes a $10 million fund for education programs promoting safety and injury prevention with regard to football players, including safety-related initiatives in youth football. This fund will also educate retired players regarding the NFL’s medical and disability programs.
All of the players listed in the 240 civil suits that were consolidated for the class action filed in the federal court must now be notified of the settlement and given an opportunity to raise objections or opt out. If they accept the deal, the players will dismiss their suits against the NFL and agree to not file any further litigation.
Bryan has scheduled a Nov. 19 fairness hearing that will review the agreement and possibly grant the final approval.