Tuesday, November 24, 2015

NFL Concussion Settlement Oral Argument

Just before the start of the regular season in 2013, thousands of former players first settled with the National Football League (NFL) over concussion-related suits. The league agreed to pay for medical benefits and injury compensation to retired players, as well as to fund medical exams, research and to pay litigation expenses. The lawsuits accused the league of hiding known risks of concussions and returning injured players to games. After that first deal was rejected by the trial court, a second deal doing away with a cap on the fund from which injured former players would draw was reached. Reportedly, the second settlement approved earlier this year could payout more than $1 billion. The lower court, however, kept out a class of players who had argued that they should benefit from the settlement because in the future they may develop the disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Failure to compensate players with CTE is the primary objection to the previously approved deal which only compensates for CTE if the player has died. Several players appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Currently, CTE can be detected only by an autopsy of the brain, and the families of several former players who died and were found to have the condition stand to receive up to $4 million. Those awards apply only to players found before the settlement was approved last April. Apparently, appellate judges appeared skeptical during oral argument last week, noting that those conditions were widely prevalent in the general population and that players who developed the conditions would not necessarily have CTE. One judge on the panel even remarked that the settlement could be watered down by every depressed field-goal kicker. The case faced significant legal hurdles at the start that could have landed the case in arbitration instead of federal court. At the outset, the district judge signaled a preference for settlement of the case, believing that the interests of all parties would be best served by a negotiated resolution. The settlement was characterized as avoiding litigating thousands of complex individual claims over many years and providing immediate relief and support. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and team owners claim they wanted to "do the right thing" for former players with neurological conditions who believe their problems stem from on-field concussions. The appeals court noted that the settlement included a provision that obligates lawyers for the league and the retired players to have good-faith negotiations in the coming years to consider future science and other issues. The appellants’ lawyers argued that was inadequate because the NFL maintains veto power over any settlement amendments. See more here-- http://nyti.ms/1MYEIHZ