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

US military tried, but failed to rescue journalist…

The U.S. military earlier this year tried to rescue journalist James Foley and other American hostages held in Syria ,but failed to find the captives.

National

Fate of captured beluga whales in hands of…

A Georgia aquarium went to court on Wednesday seeking federal permission to bring 18 captured beluga whales to the United States from Russia.

Local

After Eric Garner death, religious leaders meet to…

Interfaith leaders convened with city officials to discuss what the community can do to help dial down heightened tensions after Eric Garner's death.

Local

'Suspicious' Hamilton Heights fire caused by power strip:…

An extension cord overload caused the deadly fire in Hamilton Heights late Monday that killed a 15-year-old girl and injured at least 12 others.

Television

'So You Think You Can Dance' recap: Season…

And then there were six. It was a big night on stage as the Top 6 got to dance with each other, All-star partners and perform a solo routine.

Going Out

5 things to do in NYC this weekend…

FILM Lebowski Fest Aug. 22-23, 8 p.m. Various locations, Manhattan $20-$30, www.lebowskifest.com The Dude abides — for 48 hours to celebrate the 1998 Coen brothers classic.…

Television

'Doctor Who' personality profile: the 4 Doctors

When the time comes for a new Doctor, there's always some anxiety over the big question: Who will he be? The series owes its longevity…

Television

Billy Crystal to commemorate late actor Robin Williams…

  Comedian Billy Crystal will pay tribute to late actor Robin Williams at television's Primetime Emmy Awards on Aug. 25, the show's organizers said on…

NFL

Giants expected to work Corey Washington into first-team…

The day of reckoning for the Giants' fringe players will fall upon them Friday night against the Jets.

NFL

Jalen Saunders still unsure what caused car accident…

Jets rookie wide receiver Jalen Saunders spoke to the media Wednesday for the first time since his car accident, but he didn't say a whole lot.

NFL

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL…

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL defense (DEF)

NFL

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL…

2014 Fantasy Football: Rankings, list of top NFL quarterbacks (QB)

Sex

Online dating for every generation

Frank Jackson and his mother Maggie are like lots of modern families: They have dinner together regularly, keep each other updated on their lives —…

Wellbeing

Going green could be the key to getting…

If we could just pursue the things that would actually make us happy, we could help the environment too, according to a New York researcher.…

Wellbeing

Metabolic syndrome could have a sugar link

Scientists in St. Louis may have found another culprit in metabolic syndrome, which can lead to heart disease and type 2 diabetes.  Uric acid is…

Wellbeing

Another way stress hurts your unborn baby

Mothers know to try staying calm during pregnancy, as stress has been linked to behavioral and developmental problems for their babies. But now, a new…