WASHINGTON – The U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 12 denied a request by a group of retired National Football League Players to hear their challenge of a concussion lawsuit settlement approved in April 2015 in federal district court in Pennsylvania.
“(The objectors) felt the settlement was unfair because it did not take into account that they may suffer from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) even though they do not have a diagnosis for CTE yet because CTE can currently be diagnosed post-mortem only,” Alexandra A. Bodnar, of Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, told the Pennsylvania Record.
The settlement approved by Judge Anita B. Brody of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania between the NFL and its retired players, their representatives and family members could cost the league $1 billion in resolution of thousands of concussion-related lawsuits. More than 20,000 living football players who retired from the NFL before July 7, 2014 are eligible to collect a portion of the settlement payout.
The settlement is designed to allow the retired players to fund medical bills for concussion-related treatments and medications.
More than 100 players have opted out of the settlement, reserving their rights to individually sue the league.
In the lawsuit that was settled, the retired players alleged that the league did not warn players of the possible dangers related to concussions and hid the implications of brain injuries for those who had suffered concussions.
The players who challenged the settlement in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit and subsequently asked the Supreme Court to hear their case argued that the deal left out those with CTE because it can currently only be diagnosed after death.
Specifically, the group of players said advances in medical research may make it possible to diagnose CTE before the player dies, but that the settlement with the NFL does not account for that possibility.
The Third Circuit said the district court that approved the settlement did not make a “clear error” in connection with the CTE issue and found that the district court was right to rule that the deal was reasonable.
The Supreme Court turned down the group’s request for review on Dec. 12.
“It is not surprising that the Supreme Court denied review because it only chooses to review a small percentage of the cases submitted, and only those where there is an important federal law at issue or the need to resolve a conflict among circuit courts,” Bodnar said.
Now that the settlement challenge request has been rejected by the Supreme Court, the case will be remanded to the district court so the deal can be executed and the retired players can be paid.
“The objectors exhausted the available means to hold up the settlement by appealing the settlement and then asking the Supreme Court to review the case,” Bodnar said.