The vast majority of 18,000 former National Football League players have accepted the
settlement reached in a class action suit over covering medical expenses for those affected by long term consequences of concussions and head trauma suffered on the playing field.
U.S. District Judge Anita Brody set Oct. 14 as the deadline for players to opt out or object to the deal, with a fairness hearing scheduled for Nov. 19. The final numbers of opt-out plaintiffs have not been released, but several players have filed objections to the agreement, which will be heard during the fairness hearing.
The main source of controversy is the alleged lack of consideration and representation for players suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a condition that manifests as personality changes, mood swings, loss of memory and depression.
One of the objections filed on Oct. 14 is led by the estate of David Duerson, drafted by the Chicago Bears in 1984 and played 11 seasons as a defensive back. He retired in 1993, but began to experience drastic mood changes in 2001, according to the objection.
"Duerson, a man with no prior history of depression or psychological issues, complained of intense headaches, worsening short-term memory, language difficulties, vision trouble, and a growing problem with impulse control. Additionally, he experienced a reversal of fortune in his professional life, and his marriage dissolved," the documents say.
In February 2011, Duerson committed suicide with a gunshot to the chest, leaving directions to his survivors to preserve his brain and send it to the NFL for studying to understand the effects of CTE.
"Duerson did not kill himself for CTE to be forever eviscerated from the NFL’s lexicon," the objection says. "The proposed settlement is an insult to his legacy."
According to the agreement, only the estates of players who died from CTE-related reasons before the preliminary approval of the settlement on July 4, 2014, will receive a maximum payment of $4 million. Players who die or are diagnosed with CTE after July 7, 2014 will receive nothing, the objection says.
Another objection filed by seven former NFL players on October 6 and joined by more than 30 other retired players on Oct. 14 says that the class counsels argued that those suffering from CTE will be compensated through the payouts for dementia and other cognitive impairments.
The objection counters that CTE symptoms do not always result in the diseases covered by the uncapped portion of the settlement and can remain solely in neurobehavior problems, which are unrepresented in the agreement.
A declaration filed with the Oct. 6 objection submitted by Robert Stern, a professor of neurology at Boston University, says, "Players who suffer from many of the most disturbing and disabling symptoms of CTE would not be compensated under the settlement."
Once Brody 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.
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.