Crime & Justice

Lawyers: Judge approves NFL concussion settlement

Starting Quarterback Trent Edwards #5 of the Buffalo Bills suffers a concussion after getting hit by Strong Safety Adrian Wilson #24 of the Arizona Cardinals during the first half of their NFL game on Oct. 5, 2008 at Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.
Starting Quarterback Trent Edwards #5 of the Buffalo Bills suffers a concussion after getting hit by Strong Safety Adrian Wilson #24 of the Arizona Cardinals during the first half of their NFL game on Oct. 5, 2008 at Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.
Donald Miralle/Getty Images
Starting Quarterback Trent Edwards #5 of the Buffalo Bills suffers a concussion after getting hit by Strong Safety Adrian Wilson #24 of the Arizona Cardinals during the first half of their NFL game on Oct. 5, 2008 at Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.
Junior Seau, seen here playing for the New England Patriots toward the end of his career. He had sustained many concussions during his career and suffered from a degenerative brain disease when he killed himself in May 2012.
Otto Greule Jr./Getty Images


A federal judge on Monday granted preliminary approval to a landmark deal that would compensate thousands of former NFL players for concussion-related claims.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Anita Brody came about two weeks after the NFL agreed to remove a $675 million cap on damages. Brody had previously questioned whether that would be enough money to pay all claims.

"This is an extraordinary settlement for retired NFL players and their families — from those who suffer with neuro-cognitive illnesses today, to those who are currently healthy but fear they may develop symptoms decades into the future," plaintiffs' attorneys Sol Weiss and Christopher Seeger said in a statement.

The settlement is designed to last at least 65 years and cover retirees who develop Lou Gehrig's disease and other neurological problems.

More than 4,500 former players have filed suit, some accusing the league of fraud for its handling of concussions. They include former Dallas Cowboys running back Tony Dorsett and Super Bowl-winning Chicago Bears quarterback Jim McMahon, who suffers from dementia.

"We are grateful to Judge Brody for her guidance and her thoughtful analysis of the issues as reflected in the comprehensive opinion she issued today," NFL senior vice president Anastasia Danias said in a statement.

The original settlement included $675 million for compensatory claims for players with neurological symptoms, $75 million for baseline testing and $10 million for medical research and education. The NFL would also pay an additional $112 million to the players' lawyers, for a total payout of more than $870 million.

The revised settlement eliminates the cap on overall damage claims but retains a payout formula for individual retirees that considers their age and illness. A young retiree with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's disease, would receive $5 million, a 50-year-old with Alzheimer's disease would get $1.6 million, and an 80-year-old with early dementia would get $25,000.

Even with the cap removed, both sides said they believe the NFL will spend no more than about $675 million on damage claims by ex-players.

Critics of the deal have said the league, with annual revenues approaching $10 billion, was getting off lightly. Lawyers for the plaintiffs said the settlement avoids the risk of a protracted legal battle.