By: Allan M. Siegel
An estimated $1 billion plan to settle numerous concussion lawsuits filed
by former NFL players has been upheld in a federal appeals court. This
decision comes only weeks after an NFL official finally publicly acknowledged
the link between football and a devastating condition called chronic traumatic
encephalopathy (CTE), which has been found in a large number of former
NFL players after their deaths. CTE, while usually only diagnosable after
death, can manifest itself through a variety of symptoms, including a
history of substance abuse problems, sleep apnea, a high BMI, major lifestyle
and personality changes, and chronic pain.
Dogged for years by allegations that they concealed the risks of repeated
concussions in order to quickly return injured players to the field, this
settlement will mean that the NFL will never have to share what it knew
about the risks and treatments. The settlement would resolve thousands
of lawsuits and cover over 20,000 retired NFL players for the next 65
years. The NFL estimates that as many as three in 10 players could eventually
develop moderate dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
According to the three-judge panel who reviewed the case, this settlement
will provide immediate and significant relief to retired players living
with the consequences of a career in football. The attorneys who negotiated
the deal pointed out that the settlement will aid families in getting
medical or needed financial assistance that would otherwise take years
to obtain if the case were to go to trial.
Plaintiff’s attorneys, on the other hand, are concerned that this
settlement is not fair to the victims. We at Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata,
Siegel, P.C. believe that one of the biggest problems with the settlement
is that players will be prevented from putting NFL executives under oath
and doing other discovery to get to the bottom of the league’s deceitful
conduct. Furthermore, players and families are not likely to receive a
fair amount of compensation, and some may not receive any compensation
at all. And, as with any settlement, players who opt in will be barred
from taking any further legal action against the NFL.
Retired players could receive up to $5 million each if they are diagnosed
with Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, severe dementia based on factors
including age and number of years in the NFL. Up to $4 million will be
granted for prior deaths involving CTE, but the settlement set a cutoff
date of April 2015 in order to avoid incentivizing suicides.
So far, more than 8,000 retired players have attempted to register for
benefits, and approximately 150 players have opted out of the settlement
in pursuit of their own lawsuits.
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