By: Joseph Cammarata
Last year, 4,500 former athletes and families affected by the long-term impact of concussions reached a proposed settlement with the NFL. Under the terms of the proposed settlement, payments for the benefit of retired players were to be: $75 million for baseline testing and evaluations to determine the existence and extent of any cognitive deficits, $675 million would be available for players who had, or in the future may have, a condition recognized as one qualifying under the proposed settlement (called a "Qualifying Diagnosis" in the proposed settlement agreement,) and $10 million would be paid to fund education programs.
Attorneys for the players asked U.S. District Judge Anita B. Brody of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania to approve the settlement. Judge Brody rejected the proposed settlement, stating that there was not enough evidence presented to her to establish that there would be sufficient money to pay all of the players who would qualify for benefits under the proposed settlement.
The rejection is a considerable victory for the numerous former players and brain injury advocates who had qualms about the settlement terms. After the settlement was reached, legal experts and athletes claimed that the proposed payments were simply not enough to cover the needs of injured players affected by concussions. In addition, critics of the proposed settlement believed that the conditions available for benefits as a Qualifying Diagnosis excluded too many injured athletes. In short, the settlement was not enough for too few.
Some of the reasons why the NFL settlement was rejected include:
- The NFL and plaintiffs' lawyers did not produce enough evidence that the $675 million would be sufficient to fully pay all claims for the approximately 20,000 people who would be covered by the proposed settlement.
- The proposed settlement also prohibits the players from pursuing claims for injury from the National Collegiate Athletic Association or any other football organization or entities. The Judge expressed concern about this provision.
- The proposed settlement would establish a class of persons whose rights would be affected by the proposed settlement. Persons who suffered a mild traumatic brain injury would have been part of the class and the proposed settlement would not have provided compensation for them. However, even a mild traumatic brain injury can have devastating consequences.
The general consensus among current and former players, legal experts, and the families involved in the lawsuit is that it simply fails to fairly and fully compensate all those afflicted by life-altering traumatic brain injuries.
Judge Brody did the right thing. The numbers just don't add up. My law firm and I have a long-standing commitment to advocating on behalf of injured athletes and brain injury victims, including one of the former NFL players who is part of the proposed class affected by the settlement. Moving forward, the battle for victims' rights will continue. We will continue to evaluate any proposed settlement and act to protect the interests of our client and others affected by the life altering disease of a brain injury.
At Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C., our Washington, DC personal injury attorneys are hopeful that a more comprehensive and fair settlement can be reached; one that provides the necessary compensation to all former athletes who have suffered from preventable concussions and the failures of the NFL. We will continue to remain involved with the case and keep others informed. Injured athletes interested in learning more about their rights can also contact our legal team.