NFL Concussion Cases: The Latest
The five-year fight between the National Football League (NFL) and former players is finally coming to an end. The United States Supreme Court denied a request to review the NFL’s settlement with retired players who had accused the league of hiding the facts about the dangers of head trauma. This decision allows for some of these former players with severe debilitating brain conditions to begin receiving payments of as much as $5 million.
Judge Anita B. Brody of United States District Court approved the settlement in 2015. The Supreme Court was asked to review the settlement by a subset group of retired football players who believed that it excluded players who received a diagnosis of severe brain disease linked to chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). They argued that the settlement did not account for scientific innovations that allow for CTE to be diagnosed in people while they are alive. Currently, the disease can only be confirmed by an autopsy.
The long-awaited settlement did not come easily. The NFL fought for many years to have arbitrators, not the courts, be used to settle disputes between former players and the league. This would have forced the former players to prove that the concussions they received while playing in the NFL directly led to their current brain conditions.
The NFL agreed to settle in 2013. Judge Brody did not feel that the NFL’s initial proposed settlement of $765 million would be enough to cover every affected player. The NFL has now agreed to pay an unlimited amount of damages, estimated to total as much as $1 billion to cover all of the claims.
The settlement does not require players to prove that they sustained any concussions while playing in the NFL or that concussions led to their current brain conditions. This allows the NFL to avoid having former players testify in court about their severe brain injuries and ailments, which would shine a negative light on the league.
In January 2017, the NFL was required to begin making deposits of $20 million six times each month into an account for the players covered under the settlement. In April, the former players may begin to file claims to receive payment from the account. Players with diseases that have already been diagnosed may begin receiving payments as soon as a few weeks after filing their claim.
Christopher Seeger, one of the lead attorneys for the retired players, said that the Supreme Courts decision “means that, finally, retired NFL players will receive much-needed care and support for the serious neurocognitive injuries they are facing. These courageous men and their families, who in the face of great adversity took on the NFL, have made history.”
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