Lawyers detail $765M plan for NFL concussions

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Lawyers representing former NFL
players in the proposed $765 million settlement of thousands of
concussion-related claims detailed Monday how the money would be
divided.
The awards could reach $5 million for athletes with
amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease; $4 million for a
death involving brain trauma; and $3 million for dementia cases.
Under
the payout formula, those maximum awards would go to players under 45,
who would likely need more lifetime care. For a man in his early 60s,
the awards top out at $3 million for ALS and $950,000 for Alzheimer’s
disease. An 80-year-old with early dementia would get $25,000.
Individual
awards would also reflect how long the player spent in the NFL,
unrelated medical issues and other factors. For instance, the award
could be reduced significantly if someone had injuries from an unrelated
stroke or car accident. Men without any neurological problems would get
baseline testing, and could seek compensation if test reveal any
problems.
"This is an extraordinary settlement for retired NFL
players and their families — from those who suffer with severe
neurocognitive illnesses today, to those who are currently healthy but
fear they may develop symptoms decades into the future," lead players’
lawyers Christopher Seeger and Sol Weiss said in a statement.
Senior
U.S. District Judge Anita Brody of Philadelphia must still approve of
the plan, and is expected to hold a fairness hearing later this year.
Individual players can also opt out or object to the settlement, which
followed five months of what a mediator called "vigorous" negotiations
between the players and the NFL.
"We of course support plaintiffs’
motions, and will await further direction from Judge Brody," NFL
spokesman Brian McCarthy said.
Players taking part will be
encouraged to share their medical records with researchers studying
brain injuries in football players, according to the extensive papers
filed Monday.
The plaintiffs include class representative Kevin
Turner, who played for the Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots
and is now battling ALS.
"The compensation provided in this
settlement will lift a heavy (financial) burden off of the men who are
suffering," Turner said. He hopes it will ensure that future players "do
not suffer the way that many in my generation have."
The total
settlement would include $675 million for compensatory claims, for
players with neurological symptoms; $75 million for baseline testing for
asymptomatic men; and $10 million for medical research and education.
The NFL would also pay an additional $112 million to the players’
lawyers for their fees and expenses, for a total payout of nearly $900
million.
The league’s annual revenues top $9 billion.
More
than 4,500 former players have filed suit, some accusing the league of
fraud for its handling of concussions. They include Hall of Fame
standout and former Dallas Cowboys running back Tony Dorsett, and Super
Bowl-winning quarterback Jim McMahon, who suffers from dementia.
Mediator
Layn R. Phillips of California, a former U.S. judge, called the
settlement fair, noting the risks to both sides if the case went to
court. Players might have the case thrown out of court and their claims
sent to league arbitration, while the NFL might have been forced to
release internal files that reveal what it knew, when, about the
consequences of playing after a concussion.
"It was evident
throughout the mediation process that plaintiffs’ counsel were prepared
to litigate and try these cases, and face the risk of losing with no
chance to recover for their labor or their expenses, if they were not
able to achieve a fair and reasonable settlement result for the proposed
class," Phillips said.
The money is expected to last for at least
65 years. About 19,000 retired players would be eligible to seek awards
or medical testing, but current players are not part of the deal.
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