Proposed Settlement of NFL Concussion Lawsuit

Just before the Labor Day weekend — and just in time for the start of the season — the National Football League announced a settlement agreement with former players who sued the league over concussion injuries sustained while playing professional football.  The plaintiffs alleged the NFL had not adequately addressed concussion risks to players and, worse, had downplayed or even sought to suppress medical evidence linking serious injuries to on-field hits.  According to the WSJ, the settlement represents a “big victory” for the league.

The agreement, reached at 2 a.m. Thursday Eastern time after nine weeks of intense mediation, came far earlier than most expected. It calls for the NFL to pay $765 million, mostly for medical benefits and injury compensation for the retired players, in addition to funding medical research and covering legal expenses.

The settlement includes all retired NFL players who present medical evidence of severe cognitive impairment, not just those who joined the suit. . . .

The settlement will cost each of the NFL’s 32 franchises $24 million over 20 years, or roughly $1.2 million a year. Projected league revenues this season are $10 billion, and the NFL finalized a series of media-rights deals last year that guarantee more than $40 billion through 2022. . . .

The settlement calls for $75 million of the NFL payment to go to baseline medical exams for ex-players, $675 million to go toward compensation and $10 million to go to research and education.

A judge must still approve the settlement for it to take effect, and former players who believe the settlement is inadequate may opt out to pursue claims individually. Current players, however, will have to pursue any future claims through an arbitration process provided for in the league’s collective bargaining agreement. Some former players have attacked the deal for letting the league off easy.

For commentary on the deal see Businessweek and ESPN.

UPDATE: Howard Wasserman comments at Prawfs.