A proposed $765 million settlement of NFL concussion claims was placed on hold Tuesday by a federal judge, who expressed concern that there may not be enough money to cover the roughly 20,000 former players.
U.S. District Judge Anita B. Brody has asked for additional financial information from both sides about the payouts that would cover all players under terms of the settlement.
"I am primarily concerned that not all retired NFL players who ultimately receive a qualifying diagnosis or their related claimants will be paid," Brody wrote in a 12-page opinion filed yesterday morning.
Attorneys for the players last week detailed proposed payouts to those suffering from brain-related problems. For instance, a young retired player with Lou Gehrig's disease would receive $5 million, and players with advanced dementia would receive up to $3 million, while an 80-year-old in the early stages of dementia would get $25,000.
Brody said the "parties are responsible for supplementing the record to provide the court with the information needed to evaluate the fairness or adequacy of a proposed settlement."
Brody instructed both sides to submit the additional information to convince her that there will be enough money to cover the former players through the settlement, which is designed to be funded for 65 years or more. But Brody wrote that it would be "difficult to see" how the fund would last for that length of time.
Representatives from the former players and the NFL expressed optimism that a settlement ultimately will be reached.
"We respect Judge Brody's request for additional information as a step towards preliminary approval," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said in a statement. "We will work with the plaintiffs' attorneys to supply that information promptly to the court and special master. We are confident that the settlement is fair and adequate, and look forward to demonstrating that to the court."
Christopher Seeger, co-lead counsel for the retired players, also indicated in a statement that he believes a settlement will ultimately be finalized.
Layn R. Phillips, a former federal judge from California who was hired by Brody to lead settlement negotiations, has called the deal fair. The NFL and attorneys representing more than 4,500 former players who filed concussion-related lawsuits reached a settlement in August.
"There is nothing to indicate that the settlement is not the result of good-faith, arm's-length negotiations between adversaries," Brody said. "Nonetheless, on the basis of the present record, I am not yet satisfied that the settlement . . . falls within the range of possible approval."