US judge rejects $760 million NFL concussion settlement

Sheldon Richardson played an impressive first game of his career against the Bucs. Credit: Getty Images
The NFL has tried to crack down on hits to the helmet in the wake of concussion research.
Credit: Getty Images

A $760 million settlement between the National Football League and thousands of former players, who contend the league downplayed the risk of concussions, was rejected on Tuesday by a U.S. judge who said it might not be enough to pay all of the affected players.

The proposed deal, reached in August, had set aside up to $5 million for each former player diagnosed with a certain brain condition as a result of their years on the playing field.

More than 4,500 former players were named plaintiffs in the lawsuit and up to 20,000 could ultimately be eligible for payment.

“I am primarily concerned that not all retired NFL football players who ultimately receive a qualifying diagnosis, or their related claimants, will be paid,” U.S. District Judge Anita Brody wrote in papers filed in federal court in Philadelphia.

“Even if only 10 percent of retired NFL football players eventually receive a qualifying diagnosis, it is difficult to see how the monetary award fund would have the funds available over its lifespan to pay all claimants at these significant award levels,” the decision said.

Brody called on the NFL and plaintiffs to submit documentation that they believed showed the money set aside was adequate to meet the potential need.

“They are going to have to come back with a different settlement,” said Joseph Farelli, a partner in the New York law firm Pitt & Giblin, which specializes in labor law. “She is saying the amount is not going to cover the people they say are going to be covered by the settlement.”

An NFL spokesman had no immediate comment on the decision.

The lawsuit, filed in 2012, contended that the league hid the dangers of brain injury among players while profiting from the sport’s sometimes violent physical contact. When the settlement was first disclosed in August, sports business experts described it as a modest amount of money for the NFL, which is believed to generate total annual revenue of $9 billion or $10 billion.

Attorneys for the former players who brought the lawsuit said they believed Brody could yet be convinced that the deal is a good one.

“We are confident that the settlement will be approved after the Court conducts its due diligence on the fairness and adequacy of the proposed agreement,” lead attorneys Christopher Seeger of Seeger Weiss LLP and Sol Weiss of Anapol Schwartz said in a statement.

“Analysis from economists, actuaries and medical experts will confirm that the programs established by the settlement will be sufficiently funded to meet their obligations for all eligible retired players.”

The judge’s move to block the deal reflects her responsibility to ensure that it is fair both to the named plaintiffs and others covered in the class.

“What these 4,500 people are doing is cutting deals for everyone else and it’s a one-size fits all deal,” said Wayne Dennison, an attorney with Brown Rudnick who specializes in commercial litigation. “The judge has to be sure it’s a fair deal not just because the 4,500 like it but because it’s a good deal for the full 20,000.”

There have been suicides in recent years by current and former NFL players, including Jovan Belcher, Junior Seau, Ray Easterling and Dave Duerson. While their deaths could not be directly connected to the sport, violent or erratic behavior is consistent with symptoms of a condition tied to repeated hits to the head.

A growing body of academic research shows those hits can lead to a condition known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy, which can lead to aggression and dementia.

The research has already prompted the NFL to make changes on the field, including banning the most dangerous helmet-to-helmet hits and requiring teams to keep players who have taken hits to the head off the field if they show certain symptoms including dizziness and memory gaps.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Mutant worms stay sober, even on alcohol

U.S. researchers have developed "mutant worms" that do not get drunk by alcohol, a breakthrough that could lead to new treatment for people trying to quit drinking

Local

K-9 nose helps capture $150K in cocaine at…

A furry, four-legged security agent helped authorities stop an illegal cocaine shipment from sneaking past JFK customs.

National

Minnesota man asked to leave Southwest flight after…

A man and his two sons were asked to leave a Southwest Airlines flight after the man sent a tweet complaining about being treated rudely by a gate agent.

National

Man sues hospital after surprise penis amputation

An Alabama man who went in to a hospital last month for a circumcision awoke after surgery to find his penis had been amputated, his lawyer said on Thursday.

Movies

Review: Brett Ratner's big 'Hercules' movie is small…

The latest "Hercules," starring Dwayne Johnson as the half-god beefcake of Greek myth, strips its hero and tale of most of its fantastical elements.

Arts

Scientists recreate world's smallest Monet copy

Scientists have reproduced a famous Impressionist painting using nano-printing, to create what has been described as the world's smallest work of art. Reworked at the…

Television

Jerry Seinfeld is ambidextrous, and other Reddit AMA…

See some of the weirder highlights of Jerry Seinfeld's recent Reddit AMA.

Going Out

Grab a pedestrian and start dancing at What…

As a New Yorker, I’ve mastered the art of focusing my gaze straight ahead. Though it occasionally piques my interest, the absurdities that play out…

U.S. Soccer

Orlando City takes shot at NYCFC over Frank…

Orlando City reminded the world how big a signing Brazilian star Kaka earlier this month with a photo of Kaka mobbed by fans juxtaposed against Lampard.

NBA

Jeremy Lin says 'Linsanity' is over as he…

Jeremy Lin lit up the NBA two years ago with his play for the Knicks but he has no desire to recreate "Linsanity" in his new career with the Lakers.

NFL

2014 NFL Fantasy Football Top 100 overall player…

2014 NFL Fantasy Football Top 100 overall player rankings

U.S. Soccer

NYCFC announce signing of Frank Lampard

The tease of a big signing Thursday by new MLS side NYCFC ended up being one rumored for weeks. England midfielder Frank Lampard agreed to…

Tech

Forget Wi-Fi: Li-Fi could be the future

Li-Fi technology – developed by Mexican company Sisoft – is wireless internet connectivity using specialized LED light.

Tech

Weather app Climendo might be the most accurate…

The wait for a truly accurate weather forecast could finally be over thanks to a nifty new app called Climendo.

Tech

Napkin Table puts focus off the phone and…

Michael Jan, a design student at Tunghai University in Taiwan, has invented a serviette-picnic blanket hybrid called the Napkin Table.

Style

Essie's new Color Boutique

Essie launches high-tech kiosks at major airports and malls across the country.