NFL agrees to lift cap from concussion settlement fund
The NFL has reached a new agreement with former players suing over football-related brain injuries that should cover players who develop conditions stemming from on-the-field injuries down the road.
In January, U.S. District Court Judge Anita Brody in Philadelphia rejected the NFL's offer of $675 million to compensate players with ALS, Alzheimer's, and other concussion-related diseases out of concern that the money might run out.
After going back to the drawing table, the plantiffs' co-counsel Christopher Seeger announced Wednesday that fund will have no limit.
"Retired players and their families can now rely on the 100 percent guarantee that the fund will pay all eligible claims for its 65-year duration," he said. "If an eligible retired player develops a qualifying condition, this fund will be there for him, period."
In exchange for the uncapped funds, the NFL won the right to an unlimited number of appeals to fight fraudulent claims, which was previously limited to 10 per year.
As a check on that auditing power, Seeger said, plantiffs would be able to bring issues to court.
"If we see any wrongdoing, whether it's to intimidate players, doctors, or just to tie up claims," he said, "we're going to make sure the court rules on it, and that there are appropriate sanctions levied against the NFL."
Marc Edelman, a law professor at the Zicklin School of Business at Baruch College, said another important change was removal of a clause that would have prevented players participating in the settlement from suing other organizations, such as the NCAA.
"To the extent the new settlement allows the plantiffs to seek damages from other parties such as the NCAA as well, I believe the settlement will be far more effective at meeting the needs of both parties involved without unnecessarily curtailing the legal rights of the plaintiffs moving forward," he said.
The individual awards will remain capped, depending on the severity of the disease and the amount of time a player was in the league, as in the previous proposed settlement.
Since the new terms were negotiated along with the guidance of a court-appointed special master, the deal is expected to be approved.
More than 4,500 former players have filed suit.