SBD/January 7, 2014/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Retirees Seek Preliminary Court Approval Of NFL Concussions Settlement



NFL liability in the concussion settlement is now around $900M
The NFL will pay as much as $112.5M in legal fees to the counsel for the retirees who sued the league over allegedly misleading them on the dangers of concussions. The disclosure was made as part of a voluminous filing yesterday by the retirees' counsel seeking preliminary court approval of the announced $760M class action settlement. The legal fees are in addition to that amount, so including other costs, the NFL liability is around $900M. That is actually less than reports at the time of the Aug. 29 settlement announcement, which pegged the legal fees at over $200M. The filings yesterday were a long time coming, with retirees waiting four months for terms of the proposed settlement. The settlement divides all NFL retirees into two classes: those who have been diagnosed with impairments as defined by the settlement and those who have not. The settlement also covers players from the AFL, World League and NFL Europe. Impairments range from ALS to Alzheimer's to Parkinson's, as well as more moderate forms of dementia. Depending on the diagnosis and the number of years in the league -- and whether the diagnosis came from the baseline assessment program established by the settlement -- players or their estates are eligible for as much as $5M. But critics of the settlement say it largely benefits the most extreme cases.

COULD BE A GOOD DEAL FOR SOME PLAYERS: Attorney Jon King, who is repping former NFLer Craig Morton in a separate lawsuit against the NFL over concussions, in an e-mail wrote, “This may well be a good deal for certain players that qualify at the highest possible levels of this settlement. That will be an individual decision that every player will need to make. The NFL, of course, could settle with any individual former player, at any time, for any personal injuries, for any dollar amount. If the NFL was truly concerned about any particular players’ health situations, it could do just that, and still can do that at any time. But again, what the NFL really is after here is the global release.” By global release, King means that players who agree to the settlement give up their rights to sue the NFL over the issue. Players have to notify the court in writing to opt out. The settlement papers filed by the retirees' counsel say the settlement fund would last 65 years and cover retirees who develop illnesses in future years. Chris Seeger, the lead settlement counsel, is planning to speak to the media today at 12:30pm ET about the filings. The motion seeks preliminary approval from the court, as well as a schedule for hearing dates. In a statement released yesterday, Seeger said, “Both the baseline assessment and compensation programs were designed to protect retired players over the long-term, ensuring that these important benefits will be available to any eligible retired player who needs them.”

ADVERTISING PART OF SETTLEMENT: The court on Dec. 16 appointed a Special Master, Perry Golkin, to help it analyze the proposed settlement. The NFL as part of the proposed settlement has agreed to spend $4M on advertising to its retirees in forums ranging from SI to nursing home trade journals. If the court preliminarily approves the settlement, a fairness hearing must be held in which settlement members can object. Then the court must decide whether to certify the settlement.
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