Federal judge Anita Brody has granted preliminary approval to a revised settlement between the National Football League and thousands of its former players in a lawsuit over the league’s treatment and management of concussions and head injuries.
The settlement was approved Monday after Brody had rejected previous iterations of the deal, bringing it one step closer to full approval that will deliver payouts to former players for medical treatment and damages. The revised settlement is largely similar to the original $765 million deal, though it removes proposed caps on the $675 million fund that would make payments to former players based on their injuries. Brody was skeptical of the math supporting that number, and preliminary estimates showed that more than $1 billion may be required to fund all payouts based on NFL injury data. The settlement still includes the individual payout caps contained in the original deal (Patrick Hruby has an informative breakdown of the new settlement terms).
“We are pleased the Court has granted preliminary approval,” Christopher Seeger and Sol Weiss, co-lead counsels for the retired NFL players, said in an email statement. “This is an extraordinary settlement for retired NFL players and their families – from those who suffer with neuro-cognitive illnesses today, to those who are currently healthy but fear they may develop symptoms decades into the future. We have received overwhelming support from the retired player community as they learn more about the guaranteed benefits and long-term security this settlement provides, and we look forward to soon finalizing this agreement.”
A major loser in the deal are players who might be suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), the disease found in dozens of former football players that is thought to be caused by repeated head trauma and has been linked to former players who committed suicide. Under the settlement’s terms, the families of players with CTE were only eligible for the stated $4 million payment if they died before the settlement received preliminary approval. The families of players who die but are later found to have had CTE, which has thus far been found primarily only after death, would not collect the payment.
Preliminary approval means that former players can now receive notifications of the settlement and determine whether they want to opt-out of the final deal. Several former players had criticized the original deal and indicated that they would opt-out, and a group of seven former players filed a motion with Brody in May that sought a seat at the negotiating table to work out a list of problems they had with the settlement, some of which still exist in this version of the deal. Brody will determine whether to grant final approval once players have been given a chance to opt out of it, with a hearing on the settlement scheduled for November 19, according to the Associated Press.