Judge Approves Settlement, With No Cap on Damages, To Compensate NFL Players Who Suffer Concussion-Related Brain Injuries

On July 9, 2014 a federal judge for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania gave preliminary approval to a $675 million settlement in the case In re: National Football League Players’ Concussion Injury Litigation. The NFL has agreed to the settlement, under which all valid claims (by retired NFL players) will be paid in full for 65 years,” with “no cap on the amount of funds available to pay…Monetary Awards.” In addition to this $675 million, the NFL Parties have also agreed to pay $112.5 million in attorneys’ fees and costs.

The class of plaintiffs consists of (i) Retired NFL Football Players, including American Football League, World League of American Football, NFL Europe League, and NFL Europa League players; (ii) authorized representatives, ordered by a court or other official of competent jurisdiction, of deceased or legally incapacitated or incompetent Retired NFL Football Players; and (iii) close family members of Retired NFL Football Players or any other persons who properly assert, under applicable state law, the right to sue by virtue of their relationship with a Retired NFL Football Player. Based on the records of the NFL Parties, there are more than 20,000 Settlement Class Members.

Each member of the settlement class who registers and does not opt out will undergo baseline neuropsychological and neurological examination to determine whether they are currently suffering from impairment serious enough for compensation. $75 million from the settlement is set aside to pay for these examinations, collectively labeled the “Baseline Assessment Program” (BAP). The Court ordered that a notice is to be sent to all potential class members with information and registration materials, all of which can also be found on the dedicated website www.nflconcussionsettlement.com.

Class members who are diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimer’s Disease, early or moderate Dementia, or certain kinds of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CET) will be compensated at $5 million, adjusted downward according to a) the diagnosis; b) the number of seasons played; c) age at the time of diagnosis; and d) relationship to the qualifying retired player.

A common general concern in the public discussion about this issue has been how injured players would be able to prove that their injuries happened because of working conditions at the NFL, as opposed to similar collisions that happened to them in Pop Warner, high school, college football, or even unrelated accidents or other events. The settlement agreement ignores this question: “To get money,” it says, “proof that injuries were caused by playing NFL football is not required.”

In addition to examinations and monetary awards, the Agreement also calls for “Education programs promoting safety and injury prevention with respect to football players, including safety-related initiatives in youth football, the education of retired players regarding the NFL’s medical and disability programs and other educational programs and initiatives ($10 million).”

If you are an employee and you believe your rights have been violated, please contact The Harman Firm, LLP.