The proposed $675 million settlement between the NFL and retired players with brain injuries is not a fair deal for players, says New York attorney Michael Kaplen, who specializes in traumatic brain injury cases.
The Philadelphia judge handling the settlement held a hearing in federal court this week to evaluate its fairness. U.S. District Judge Anita Brody granted preliminary approval for the settlement in July.
Kaplen is not representing anybody in this suit, but has been following the case for the entire time. "If this settlement goes through, the winner is the NFL, and the class action attorneys who will get over $112 million," he said. "The losers are 85 percent of players who will get nothing in this settlement."
Kaplen says the public would also never learn what the NFL knew in regards to the dangers of traumatic brain injuries, and when they knew it.
"Most players have mild traumatic brain injuries, which are associated with cognitive and behavior problems. They are not part of the settlement so they won't receive anything."
Kaplen says mild brain injuries have a big impact on people's lives. He says the word "mild" is the wrong term.
"If you are on a plane, imagine the stewardess tells you not to worry, the pilot has a mild brain injury, he has cognitive impairment, he's forgetful, and he just might fly off the handle, he can't control his emotions, he probably suffers from depression, and he has sensitivity to bright lights," said Kaplen. "The problem with this settlement is that players who have this kind of condition will receive nothing."
Kaplen said it's too late for players who are part of the settlement to change anything about it, and things may not look much brighter for the almost 200 players who opted out. They could technically still sue going forward, but there's an economic problem. "It's very difficult for one attorney to take on the NFL on behalf of a single player," said Kaplen. "The NFL has unlimited funds to burn, they have attorneys, and all the time in the world."