The court-appointed mediator in concussion-related lawsuits brought by more than 4,000 former NFL players announced today that the two sides had reached an agreement that would end litigation against the league and NFL Properties and provide medical benefits and other compensation to injured players or their families.
According to the agreement, NFL and NFL Properties will contribute $765 million to provide medical benefits and injury compensation for retired players, fund medical and safety research and cover litigation expenses.
It is a massive deal that removes one of the thorniest financial and public relations dilemmas facing the league. Had the players eventually prevailed in the consolidated lawsuits, the league could have been liable for billions in punitive damages.
The settlement does not represent an admission of liability by the NFL, nor is there an admission by the plaintiffs that their injuries were caused by football.
Former United States District Judge Layn Phillips, the mediator in the case that was first heard in March by U.S. District Judge Anita B. Brody, negotiated with both sides for nearly two months. The agreement will now be submitted for approval to Brody.
“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 in a statement. “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.”
NFL executive vice president Jeffrey Pash, who was involved in the negotiations, said the agreement “lets us help those who need it most and continue our work to make
the game safer for current and future players. Commissioner [Roger] Goodell and every 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. 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.”
Christopher Seeger, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs, called it “an extraordinary agreement that provide immediate care and support to retired players and their families. This agreement will get help quickly to the men who suffered neurological
injuries. It will do so faster and at far less cost, both financially and emotionally, than could have ever been accomplished by continuing to litigate.”
One of the plaintiffs, former NFL fullback Kevin Turner, who suffers from ALS, said the “benefits in this agreement will make a difference not only for me and my
family, but also for thousands of my football brothers who either need help today or may
need help someday in the future. I am grateful that the NFL is making a commitment to the men who made the game what it is today.”
Once final documentation is completed, the settlement will be filed with Judge
Brody, who will then schedule a hearing to consider whether to grant preliminary approval to the agreement. If the settlement receives preliminary approval, Judge Brody will direct the parties to distribute notice to the retired players. After giving retired players an opportunity to file objections to the settlement, Judge Brody will hold a hearing to consider whether to grant final approval. Judge Brody is expected to issue the precise schedule within a few weeks.
“Approval of the settlement will require Judge Brody to determine that it is fair,
reasonable, and adequate in light of the claims and defenses, and the expense, uncertainty
and time inherent in litigating the claims, particularly given the benefits provided by the
agreement,” said Phillips. “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. For these and other reasons, I will strongly endorse this settlement in my report to Judge Brody.”