• $760 Million Settlement Reached in NFL Players Repetitive Head Trauma Class Action
  • September 3, 2013
  • Law Firm: Lieff Cabraser Heimann Bernstein LLP - San Francisco Office
  • The Class Action settlement announced today is the culmination of months of negotiations. It provides substantial compensation for seriously impaired retired players; medical evaluation for all players; and the right to file claims for 65 years in the event a player develops serious neurological injuries even 30 years or more from now. In other words, it provides real security and peace of mind for retired players and their families.

    The NFL has agreed to establish a settlement fund of $760 million, with individual player payouts as high as $5 million for the most seriously injured players. All retired players, even those without any symptoms today, will have an opportunity to undergo a Baseline Neurological Evaluation and continued monitoring and treatment if needed.

    The settlement will avoid the uncertainty of prolonged litigation and/or the risk of arbitration. We have been successful in achieving meaningful healthcare for all retired players regardless of their vested status under the CBA, while maintaining all other NFL benefits currently in place and enhancing one of those benefits in a very significant way.

    One very important aspect of the settlement is that no proof of causation will be required. Compensation and health benefits will be easy and streamlined for those who qualify. The settlement includes a program to reduce any existing liens; it establishes a research fund to study the effects of repetitive head trauma; and it provides an educational program aimed at reducing the risks to younger players.

    The general terms of the proposed settlement are as follows:

    • Baseline Assessment Program (BAP) - provides an opportunity for all presently retired players to visit an approved physician and facility for neuro-cognitive baseline testing and diagnoses. Retired players who are diagnosed with a certain level of cognitive impairment will receive a medical benefit card that can be applied toward further testing and medical care for that condition. Any player diagnosed with an injury listed on the compensation grid will be able to apply for and receive compensation.

    • Compensation Grid - provides substantial compensation for neurological conditions such as ALS, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, and severe cognitive disorders like dementia, with payments up to $5 million. It will also provide compensation to family members of those who commit suicide if CTE is diagnosed posthumously. The amount of compensation will be adjusted based on the number of years of service and the age when the player was first diagnosed. It will also be adjusted based on whether the player suffered any non-football related head trauma or stroke (except for players diagnosed with ALS). Proof of causation is not required.

    • Players who are now healthy or with minor symptoms will be protected for decades to come, and remain eligible for compensation under the grid if they develop a severe neuro-cognitive disorder. Likewise, players now eligible for compensation who progress to a higher level of impairment will receive the increased benefit. The compensation program will exist until the last retired player turns 80-years-old.

    • Research and Education Fund - will be established to support research into cognitive impairment, safety and injury prevention in football players, and the education of retired NFL players regarding the NFL's medical and disability benefits programs and other programs and initiatives. A portion of the Research Fund will be used to fund joint projects undertaken by the NFL Parties and Retired NFL Players concerning education and safety-related initiatives in youth football.

    • Preservation of CBA Benefits - The settlement also preserves all collectively-bargained benefits currently provided to retired players. No former player will be forced to choose between collecting his benefits from programs such as the 88 Plan and receiving compensation under this settlement.

    An independent firm not affiliated with the NFL will administer the settlement fund, with independent audits and reviews to ensure the fund is operating as intended. There will be an appeals process in place for players whose claims are initially denied.

    Once the final documentation is completed, the settlement will be filed with Judge Anita Brody, who will schedule a hearing to consider whether to grant preliminary approval to the agreement. If the settlement receives preliminary approval, Judge Brody will direct the parties to distribute notice to the retired players. After giving retired players an opportunity to file objections to the settlement, Judge Brody will hold a hearing to consider whether to grant final approval. Judge Brody is expected to issue the precise schedule within a few weeks. The mediator, Retired Judge Layne Phillips, stated "there is no question that this settlement will provide benefits much sooner, and at much less cost, for many more retirees, than would have been achieved through extended litigation. For these and other reasons, I will strongly endorse this settlement in my report to Judge Brody."

    We are sure you will have many questions and we will keep you updated as to the approval process, registration and implementation of this program. This is a result that provides not only meaningful benefits now and in the future, but also one where the NFL has moved from denial to acknowledgement. In the end, this is something we should all be very proud of.