Friday, November 14, 2014

NFL, Plaintiffs Briefs Support NFL Concussion Settlement

The proposed NFL Football Players Concussion Settlement will be the subject of a "fairness hearing" before District Judge Anita Brody on Wednesday, November 19, 2014. In anticipation the National Football League and Class Counsel have filed briefs supporting the proposed settlement, while a few such as Sean Morey have objected.  See
Plaintiffs memorandum of law in support of proposed final settlement

As described on the Court's website "[t]he Settlement Class generally includes all retired players of the NFL, AFL, World League of American Football, NFL Europe League and NFL Europa League. The Settlement Class includes immediate family members of retired players and legal representatives of incapacitated, incompetent or deceased players. "

The Settlement provides money for three benefits:
• Baseline medical exams to determine if retired players suffer from neurocognitive impairment and are entitled to additional testing and/or treatment ($75 million),
• Monetary awards for diagnoses of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, Dementia and certain cases of chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE (a neuropathological finding) diagnosed after death. The maximum monetary awards range from $1.5 million to $5 million depending on the diagnosis. All valid claims will be paid in full for 65 years; and
• Education programs and initiatives related to football safety ($10 million)

The NFL has waived any cap on total damages.  The class action settlement of injury claims is unusual.  Since Amchem Prods., Inc. v. Windsor, 521 U.S. 591 (1997) such claim have generally been handled as aggregate settlements of individual tort claims.  The Amchem rationale is that personal injury claims are so unique that due process requires retention of the individual's right to a "day in court" - which a class action bars.  Objectors have cited Amchem as principal support.

Yet so far few have opted out of the class settlement agreement - which was announced in principle before the Court ruled on the motion to dismiss which asserted that the unionized players only remedies were under the grievance procedures of the collective bargaining agreement.  The strength of that argument counseled compromise by the plaintiffs lawyers.

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