The NFL and the lawyers representing a class that now encompasses all retired players as of July 8, 2014 have gotten what they’ve wanted for a while. Judge Anita Brody has given preliminary approval to the settlement.
“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 V.P. — Legal Anastasia Danias said in a statement. “We will work with plaintiffs’ counsel to provide notice to the class and implement the settlement terms as provided in the Court’s order.”
“We are pleased the Court has granted preliminary approval,” plaintiffs lawyers Christopher Seeger and Sol Weiss said in a statement. “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. We have received overwhelming support from the retired player community as they learn more about the guaranteed benefits and long-term security this settlement provides, and we look forward to soon finalizing this agreement.”
The decision comes roughly six months after Judge Brody rejected preliminary approval of the settlement, due to concerns regarding whether sufficient funds will be available for the next 65 years and regarding the presence of a waiver for other football leagues and organizations. The NFL agreed to remove the cap on potential benefits to be paid to players who qualify for compensation, and also to strike a waiver for the NCAA and other football leagues.
The grant of preliminary approval opens the door for sending notice of the settlement to all class members, giving them the opportunity to opt out and/or to challenge the settlement. Judge Brody has issued an injunction preventing any members of the proposed class from pursuing concussion litigation and staying any pending concussion lawsuits until the players officially opt out of the settlement, final approval of the settlement is rejected, or the settlement agreement is otherwise terminated.
Eventually, after the players have a chance to opt out and/or to oppose the settlement, Judge Brody will consider whether to give the deal final approval. As the process closes in on the one-year anniversary of the original settlement, it’s unclear how much longer it will take to get the players to the point where they can actually receive payment for their cognitive impairments.