After two months of negotiations, the concussion-related lawsuits brought by more than 4,500 retired football players against the NFL have been settled.
Under the agreement, the NFL and NFL Properties will contribute $765 million to provide medical benefits and injury compensation for retired NFL players, fund medical and safety research, and cover litigation expenses. Attorneys' fees will also be paid in addition to the settlement amount.
The agreement will need to be approved by US District Judge Anita B. Brody, who is presiding over the cases in federal court in Philadelphia. Judge Layn Phillips was the court-appointed mediator in the consolidated concussion-related lawsuits.
“This is a historic agreement," Phillips said in a statement. "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. 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. I am deeply grateful to Judge Brody for appointing me as mediator and offering me the opportunity to work on such an important and interesting matter.”
The NFL insisted that the agreement was a continuation of its work to make the game "safer for current and future players."
"Commissioner 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,” NFL Executive Vice President Jeffrey Pash said in a statement. “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.”
Former Patriots running back Kevin Turner, who has been diagnosed with ALS, will serve as lead plaintiff for one group of retired players.
“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,” said Turner, who also played for the Eagles in a career that spanned from 1992-1999. “I am grateful that the NFL is making a commitment to the men who made the game what it is today.”
Here is the breakdown of the payments the NFL will make in connection with the settlement:
* Baseline medical exams, the cost of which will be capped at $75 million
* A separate fund of $675 million to compensate former players who have suffered cognitive injury or their families
* A separate research and education fund of $10 million
* The costs of notice to the members of the class, which will not exceed $4 million
* $2 million, representing one-half of the compensation of the Settlement Administrator for a period of 20 years
* Legal fees and litigation expenses to the plaintiffs’ counsel, which amounts will be set by the District Court
If the settlement receives approval, the NFL will pay about 50 percent of the settlement over three years. The remaining balance will be paid over the next 17 years.
The $675 million injury compensation fund will be available to retired players who present medical evidence of severe cognitive impairment, dementia, Alzeimer's, ALS, or to their families. Amounts paid will depend on the specific diagnosis, age, seasons played and other relevant medical conditions.
If a retired player's condition worsens, he may apply for supplemental payment.
If $675 million is determined to be insufficient to pay approved claims, a recommendation will be made by the settlement administrator to the court that the NFL pay an additional amount of up to $37.5 million.
The announcement of the settlement released to the media included this statement: "The settlement does not represent, and cannot be considered, an admission by the NFL of liability, or an admission that plaintiffs’ injuries were caused by football. Nor is it an acknowledgement by the plaintiffs of any deficiency in their case. Instead, it represents a decision by both sides to compromise their claims and defenses, and to devote their resources to benefit retired players and their families, rather than litigate these cases."