PHILADELPHIA (Legal Newsline) — In a rather unexpected move, the National Football League and more than 4,500 former professional football players who were suing over play-related head injuries have announced they reached a multi-million settlement in the litigation.
The massive $765 million settlement still needs approval by U.S. District Judge Anita Brody, the federal jurist in Philadelphia who has been presiding over the multidistrict litigation docket.
The announcement came via news release from Layn Phillips, a retired federal judge who was appointed earlier this summer by Brody to serve as a mediator to handle talks between the two sides.
In his announcement, Phillips said the settlement would end the litigation against the NFL and NFL Properties and provide medical and other benefits, as well as compensation, to the injured players and their families.
“This is a historic agreement, one that will make sure that former NFL players who need and deserve compensation will receive it, and that will promote safety for players at all levels of football,” Phillips said.
“Rather than litigate literally thousands of complex individual claims over many years, the parties have reached an agreement that, if approved, will provide relief and support where it is needed at a time when it is most needed.”
The settlement came after close to two months of negotiations between the plaintiffs — former players and their spouses — and the NFL, which had been accused of covering up information on the long-term health risks associated with concussions that were received during professional play.
Under the settlement, the defendants will contribute $765 million toward medical benefits and injury compensation for retired players, fund medical and safety research, and cover litigation expenses.
Lawyers’ fees, which also require approval by Brody, would be paid in addition to the settlement amount.
“This agreement lets us help those who need it most and continue our work to make the game safer for current and future players,” NFL Executive Vice President Jeffrey Pash said in a statement. “Commissioner [Roger] Goodell and every [team] owner gave the legal team the same direction: do the right thing for the game and for the men who played it.
“We thought it was critical to get more help to players and families who deserve it rather than spend many years and millions of dollars on litigation,” Pash continued. “This is an important step that builds on the significant changes we’ve made in recent years to make the game safer, and we will continue our work to better the long-term health and well-being of NFL players.”
Lead plaintiffs’ attorney Christopher Seeger, of law firm Seeger Weiss, called the settlement “extraordinary,” saying that the pact would provide immediate care and support to the injured retired football players and their families.
“This agreement will get help quickly to the men who suffered neurological injuries,” Seeger said in a statement. “It will do so faster and at far less cost, both financially and emotionally, than could have ever been accomplished by continuing to litigate.”
Kevin Turner, a former runningback for the Philadelphia Eagles and the New England Patriots who suffers from ALS, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, released a statement praising the settlement, saying the money would make a difference not only for him and his loved ones, but also for the “thousands of my football brothers who either need help today or may need help someday in the future.”
Turner said he is grateful that the league decided to make a commitment to “the men who made the game what it is today.”
Brody, the federal judge overseeing the case, is expected to take action on the proposed settlement within a few weeks, Phillips said.
“There is no question that this settlement will provide benefits much sooner, and at much less cost, for many more retirees, than would have been achieved through extended litigation,” Phillips said in his statement. “For these and other reasons, I will strongly endorse this settlement in my report to Judge Brody.”
The proposed settlement is broken down as follows: $75 million for baseline medical exams; $675 million to compensate former players — and their family members — who have suffered cognitive injuries; $10 for a separate research and education fund; $4 million in costs of notice to the members of the affected class; $2 million representing one-half of the compensation of the Settlement Administrator for a two-decade period; and legal fees and litigation costs to be determined by the court.
According to the website NFLConcussionLitigation.com, which has been tracking the progress of the case, there were more than 4,800 named player-plaintiffs in the 242 concussion related lawsuits filed in the MDL as of June 1.
That figure rose to 5,800-plus when factoring in the plaintiffs’ spouses.