Federal judge rejects NFL concussion class action settlement

Fotolia FootballThe Pennsylvania federal judge overseeing the NFL concussion litigation refused to preliminarily approve the $760 million settlement agreement between the league and its former players, saying she was concerned there wasn’t enough money to properly compensate all class members.

Under the deal, which was officially unveiled just a few days ago, retirees would receive an award from a $675 million fund if they were diagnosed with certain conditions linked to brain trauma, such as Lou Gehrig’s disease or Alzheimer’s disease. The maximum award would vary based on the condition: retirees with Lou Gehrig’s could receive up to $5 million, and retirees with Alzheimer’s up to $3.5 million, for instance.

The agreement was estimated to apply to more than 20,000 class members, with the fund available to retirees for 65 years.

However, U.S. District Judge Anita Brody said Tuesday that she was unsure whether the settlement was large enough to cover all retirees ultimately diagnosed with one of the conditions. “In various hypothetical scenarios,” the fund “may lack” the money needed to pay the awards, she said.

“Even if only 10 percent of retired NFL football players eventually receive a qualifying diagnosis, it is difficult to see how the Monetary Award Fund would have the funds available over its lifespan to pay all claimants at these significant award levels,” the judge said.

The judge ordered the NFL and the plaintiffs to share with her the economic analyses they said they relied on in reaching the settlement. Providing the documents would provide “a first step toward preliminary approval,” she said.

“Unfortunately, no such analyses were provided to me in support of the plaintiffs’ motion,” Judge Brody said. “In the absence of additional supporting evidence, I have concerns about the fairness, reasonableness and adequacy of the settlement.”

In a footnote, the judge said she was also concerned about the adequacy of the $75 million baseline assessment program, which is designed to help retirees monitor their neurological health. In addition, the judge has questions about the provision in the agreement that class members who receive awards drop their concussion suits against the NCAA and other football organizations.

“These concerns will also have to be addressed,” she said.

The case is In re: National Football League Players’ Concussion Injury Litigation, case number 2:12-md-02323, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

Steve Larson
An experienced trial lawyer who handles both hourly and contingent fee cases, Steve has expertise in class actions, antitrust litigation, securities litigation, corporate disputes, intellectual property disputes, unfair competition claims, and disputes involving family wealth. Steve regularly represents individuals and businesses in federal and state court and has obtained class-wide recovery in multiple class actions. A veteran practitioner, Steve's clients value his creative approach to resolving complex litigation matters.


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