On Monday April 18th a federal appeals court made the decision to uphold a settlement that calls for monetary rewards of up to $1 billion for multiple former NFL players who have made claims of suffering from concussions during their time playing in the League. The settlement also calls for a more holistic and enhanced medical testing procedure for players currently in the NFL and those who plan on entering the league in the future. Additionally, the settlement also means that any retired NFL player would be able to receive between $90,000 and $5 million, based on how severe the injuries they received while playing in the league were. Primarily, this class action settlement being upheld by the U.S. court of appeals serves as a major milestone passing for both the NFL and the retired players.
Furthermore, although efforts for the lawsuit to go through have mainly been hindered by opposition from several dozen players. The decision by the court will now make it harder for these players who object the deal to continue appealing the case. Those who object the courts decision are now faced with the decision of whether or not they would like to continue with the legal battle, which could result in the lawsuit being taken up by the U.S. Supreme Court or requesting a panel that would consist of all Third Circuit judges to reconsider the ruling handed down on Monday. One lead counsel for the objectors of the lawsuit stated that his fellow objectors were “disappointed with the courts decision” and that they were reviewing various opinions and considering their options. Based on his response one could assume that the objectors are leaning towards carrying on with the legal battle without finally coming to a compromise. The ruling handed down, came as a result of the panel being hesitant to reject the deal due to the hope that the two parties would be able to negotiate a deal that would benefit both parties and also highlighted that the objectors were in fact “well-intentioned” in there argument making against approval of the settlement.
The initial purpose of the lawsuit has been to get help for those players who require immediate financial assistance. For players who are currently suffering from conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and ALS, the settlement mandates a generous payment for those former players. In addition, it also mandates that NFL owners commit $75 million to baseline assessments and $10 million to educational efforts, resulting in players being able to receive financial compensation within four months of the settlements conclusion. As a result of lead plaintiff and former fullback Kevin Turner passing away at the age of 46 due to a six year battle with ALS, it has only strengthened Attorneys argument that judges should rule on the settlement with a sense of urgency as players are currently suffering as they await compensation approval from the court. Moreover, Jeff Pash, the league’s general counsel, wrote in a memo to the 32 NFL teams, “Today’s decision is a significant step in implementing the club’s commitment to provide compensation to retired players who are experiencing cognitive or neurological issues.” This is a reflection of the leagues efforts to improve upon its ability to provide both medical and financial compensation for retired players and there families. Being able to compensate the players coping with symptoms now is far more desirable than having to wait until the individual dies to pay their estates for a CTE diagnosis.
One might then question the validity of the argument of those objecting the settlement. However, in order to delve deeper into the argument of the objectors it is important to recognize that this group argues that the settlement does not adequately account for the dangers associated with CTE. Those challenging the deal also complain that it does not cover mood and behavioral disorders that some researchers also link to CTE. These mood and behavioral symptoms are common in the general population and have multifactor causation and many other risk factors according to Judge Thomas L. Ambro. Retired players tend to have many risk factors, such as sleep apnea, histories of drug and alcohol abuse, a high BMI, chronic pain, and major lifestyle changes, all major risk factories also noted by the judge. As a result of Jeff Miller, who serves as the NFL’s senior vice president of health and safety, made an effort to acknowledge the relationship that exists between football and CTE at a congressional committee last month, the objector’s argument would be strengthened by these new findings. This acknowledgement made by miller was significant due to the fact that it was in fact the first public concession on the issue by any league official. In response judges on the panel pointed out that although the NFL had eventually made a link between CTE and playing football, there were far too many questions that had to be answered before claiming in there argument that failing to make a financial compensation in the settlement was unreasonable.
Senior U.S. District judge Anita Brody approved the deal last year after twice sending it back to lawyers over concerns the fund might run out. Not only does the total NFL payout over 65 years expected to be more than $1 billion. Based on NFL estimates, there are roughly 6,000former players, which equates to 3 in 10 players, which could develop Alzheimer’s disease or moderate dementia as a result of playing the sport. It is key to point out that the NFL has received increased backlash in recent years as a result of complaints that it has been knowingly hiding the various risks of repeated concussions in order for players to be able to get back on the field as quickly as possible. As a result of the settlement the NFL may never have to disclose what and when it knew about the affects and diagnosis of concussions. However, the settlement would also resole over a thousand different lawsuits and cover more than 20,000 NFL retirees for the next 65 years as well.
“Appeals Court Upholds $1B NFL Concussion Settlement.” Chicagotribune.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Apr. 2016. <http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/football/ct-nfl- concussion-lawsuit-upheld-20160418-story.html>.
ESPN. ESPN Internet Ventures, n.d. Web. 21 Apr. 2016. <http://espn.go.com/nfl/story/_/id/15229132/appeals-court- upholds-1-billion-nfl-concussion-settlement>.