Federal Judge Refuses To Approve NFL Brain Injury Settlement

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Everyone pretty much assumed the NFL’s widely-reported $765 million settlement with former players over brain injury was a done-deal. The reports made it appear that the players were happy with the compensation, and the league was certainly happy to not have to take any responsibility for the high levels of long-term brain damage being found in former and current NFL players.

However, it appears one person wasn’t happy with the settlement the parties reached: U.S. District Judge Anita Brody.

The federal judge declined to approve the settlement on Tuesday, citing concern that it may not be enough money to cover benefits for 20,000 retired players.

Judge Anita B. Brody

Judge Anita B. Brody

“I am primarily concerned that not all retired NFL football players who ultimately receive a qualifying diagnosis or their (families) … will be paid,” Judge Brody wrote in her 12-page opinion on why she has denied the deal for now. Instead, she asked for more financial analysis from both parties before she will consider approving the deal again.

“Even if only 10 percent of retired NFL football players eventually receive a qualifying diagnosis, it is difficult to see how the Monetary Award Fund would have the funds available over its lifespan to pay all claimants at these significant award levels,” Brody stated.

The settlement is the result of over 4,500 lawsuits filed by former players claiming the National Football League is responsible for causing concussions and other long-term brain injuries associated with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, as well as misleading players and hiding evidence about concussions.

The settlement was reached shortly before the current football season began, but Judge Brody’s decision came just one week after the players’ lawyers filed a detailed payout plan establishing how they would award money to retirees based on their age and diagnosis.

As an example, NBC News says a younger retiree with a qualifying diagnosis of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) would receive $5 million, while those with Parkinson’s Disease could get a maximum of $3.5 million and a serious dementia patient would only be eligible for $3 million. An 80-year old former player with early dementia could get $25,000 under the plan.

“In the absence of additional supporting evidence, I have concerns about the fairness, reasonableness, and adequacy of the Settlement,” Brody wrote.

The settlement isn’t dead in the water yet. Following the reception of further financial analysis Brody could approve the deal. She could also force the players and the league back to arbitration to agree on a higher amount of money to ensure all players will be treated as fairly as possible in the restitution process.

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