NEWPORT BEACH, California (AFP) – The National Football League has reached a settlement worth $765 million in a lawsuit filed by more than 4,500 former players against the NFL over concussion injuries.
Under the landmark agreement, the league and NFL Properties will contribute $765 million to provide medical benefits and injury compensation for the retired players or their families.
The league will also fund medical and safety research and cover litigation expenses as part of the deal.
Former U.S. District Judge Layn Phillips, the court-appointed mediator who helped forge the deal, said a trial would have been costly, long and difficult to address on a case-by-case basis with the outcome uncertain for either side.
“This is a historic agreement, one that will make sure that former NFL players who need and deserve compensation will receive it, and that will promote safety for players at all levels of football,” Phillips said of the deal, which is still pending court approval.
“Rather than litigate literally thousands of complex individual claims over many years, the parties have reached an agreement that will provide relief and support where it is needed at a time when it is most needed.”
The settlement includes all players who have retired by the date it is approved by a court in Philadelphia, where the case was being heard.
Under its terms, the NFL made no admission of liability, deficiency on the part of the NFL or that injuries were caused by playing American football.
“It represents a decision by both sides to compromise their claims and defenses and to devote their resources to benefit retired players and their families rather than litigate these cases,” Phillips said.
There will be a fund of $675 million to compensate former players or their families who have suffered cognitive injury such as dementia, ALS and Alzheimer’s disease with $75 million more for basic medical exams. Other money will go to research and legal expenses.
The NFL would pay half of the settlement over three years and the other half over the following 17 years.
Phillips said the deal was not an admission by the NFL that it hid information on the long-term impact of NFL hits on the health of players, something that ex-players had claimed in some of the lawsuits.
“It doesn’t mean that the NFL hid information,” he said. “It does not mean that the plaintiffs’ injuries were caused by (American) football. On the other hand, it doesn’t mean that the plaintiffs wouldn’t have been able to prove their case.”
NFL executive vice president Jeffrey Pash said it was more important to provide help to players sooner even as they faced fighting against that very thing in court.
“We thought it was critical to get more help to players and families who deserve it rather than spend many years and millions of dollars on litigation,” Pash said.
“This is an important step that builds on the significant changes we’ve made in recent years to make the game safer, and we will continue our work to better the long-term health and well-being of NFL players.”
Former Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots running back Kevin Turner, who has been diagnosed with the neuro-muscular disorder ALS, was pleased with the result.
“The benefits in this agreement will make a difference not only for me and my family, but also for thousands of my football brothers who either need help today or may need help someday in the future,” Turner said.
Photo Credit: AFP/Patrick Smith