NFL Concussion Pact Helps League Not Players: Objectors

The National Football League will probably pay less to settle player concussion claims under a new offer than an earlier $765 million plan rejected by a judge as insufficient, seven ex-athletes said in the first court challenge to the accord.

The NFL agreed last week to remove the cap on damages it would pay retirees suffering from concussion-related injuries. The new plan creates a “procedural labyrinth,” with an onerous claims process that leaves out players suffering from early effects of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a progressive brain disease, the players’ lawyers said yesterday in court papers.

“Cap or no cap, the revised settlement comes nowhere near being fair, adequate and reasonable,” according to the filing in federal court in Philadelphia. “Given the limitations on who qualifies for compensation and the complex, one-sided process for determining that, it is likely the settlement will cost the NFL less than $765 million.”

Brian McCarthy, a spokesman for the league, declined to comment on the filing. Chris Seeger, co-lead attorney for the retired players who helped negotiate the settlement, didn’t immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

More than 5,000 former football players had sued the league seeking damages for head injuries. In cases consolidated before U.S. District Judge Anita Brody in Philadelphia, they accused the NFL of hiding a link between repeated head impacts and long-term brain injuries.

Settlement Rejected

An initial settlement reached last year came under fire from Brody and others saying it wouldn’t fund all claims over 65 years. Brody denied preliminary approval in January and sent the lawyers back into negotiations.

Under the revised deal announced June 25, the NFL would pay at least $675 million in cash awards to retirees suffering from injuries including dementia. It agreed to absorb costs above that amount. Medical tests and educational programs would bring the total settlement amount to $765 million.

The revised agreement tightens restrictions for audits of payments and damage award appeals. It also includes language to prevent fraudulent claims.

The claims process is so “onerous and confusing” that it raises due-process and fairness issues, lawyers for the objecting athletes said. It also fails to compensate players suffering from medical conditions including chronic headaches, decreased emotional stability and attention and concentration deficits, all early symptoms of CTE, according to the filing.

The seven challengers include linemen and special-teams players who played an average of nine seasons in the league, according to the filing. Three played on Super Bowl championship teams: Sean Morey and Alan Faneca of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Sean Considine of the Baltimore Ravens, according to the filing.

The case is In re National Football Players’ Concussion Injury Litigation, 12-md-02323, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia).

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