Some critics said the NFL, with more than $9 billion in annual revenue, was getting away lightly. But the players’ lawyers said they would face huge challenges just to get the case to trial. They would have to prove the injuries were linked to the players’ NFL service and should not be handled through league arbitration. They could end up with nothing.
Sol Weiss, a lead lawyer for the ex-players, remained confident the class action settlement will ultimately be approved. He said he was confident “that there will be enough money to cover these claims for 65 years.”
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said league officials were “confident that the settlement is fair and adequate and look forward to demonstrating that to the court.”
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.
The judge’s hand-picked mediator, former federal judge Layn R. Phillips, led several months of negotiations last year and has called the deal fair to both sides.
The 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 also would pay an additional $112 million to the players’ lawyers for their fees and expenses, for a total payout of nearly $900 million.
The NCAA clause is apparently designed to prevent plaintiffs from double dipping. Feldman said he was unsure why the NFL would insist on that.
Given the judge’s ruling, the two sides could offer more evidence the fund would be stable, change the payout formula or perhaps have the NFL add more money to the pot. Otherwise, they may be left to start over.