New settlement drops waiver for other leagues, enhances protections against fraud
Judge Anita Brody rejected the initial NFL concussion settlement due to concerns that the $765 million package may not cover all claims. The new settlement agreement addresses that worry conclusively, by wiping out the ceiling on the potential payments.
She also expressed concerns about language waiving claims against other football organizations. That provision was addressed, too.
“There is no longer a release of the NCAA or any Pop Warner league, middle school, high school, in the release of this case,” attorney Christopher Seeger said during a Wednesday conference call to discuss the settlement. “It’s out.”
The NFL has confirmed that the waiver of the NCAA and other football leagues and organizations was removed.
What’s new to the deal, as the league office has explained it to PFT, are “subtle changes in the criteria and process for qualifying for an award to prevent fraudulent claims.”
As explained by Ken Belson of the New York Times, the NFL “insisted on measures to prevent retired players from filing false claims,” including “tightened” standard for doctors eligible to diagnose retired players who would receive benefits and the creation of a “network of approved doctors.” Also, Belson explains that the NFL will be permitted to challenge an unlimited number of claims, a major increase over the previous limit of 10 per year.
Beyond that, the standard has not changed. Retired players who seek benefits must prove a severe cognitive impairment. Moderate or mild impairments, even if caused by the failure of the NFL to share information about the risks of concussions, won’t be eligible for benefits.
Still, players who develop severe cognitive impairment in the future will be eligible for benefits, meaning that all players are protected, if they decide to accept the settlement.
None of this means all players will accept the settlement. Players will have the ability to opt out and sue, or to continue with cases already filed.