As complaints continue about delays in the processing of concussion settlement payments mount, the judge who approved the deal recognizes the root of the problem.
“Let’s be very clear,” Judge Anita Brody recently said in court, via Newsday. “If it’s a capped settlement, [the NFL puts] in the money and they don’t care what happens. But the NFL has a legitimate interest, in view of the fact that it’s uncapped, to challenge any request that may be fraudulent.”
Determining what “may be fraudulent” becomes the challenge. Given the clear financial realities of the situation, the NFL has every reason to assume that every claim “may be fraudulent,” and to push and press and delay and question and otherwise resist the claim, in the hopes of defeating it (or getting the player to abandon it).
The simple fact that the NFL faces unlimited liability underscores the temptation to assume that everyone is submitting a fraudulent claim. And it invites the NFL to challenge every single claim, no matter how objectively valid each claim may be.
The lawyer who negotiated the settlement on behalf of the former players understandably defends the process, echoing the importance of ensuring that only legitimate payments are made.
“If the fraudulent claims were paid out, you’re talking more than one billion dollars,” Christopher Seeger said in court.
It’s fine to be concerned about false claims, but one man’s fraud is another man’s truth. And the truth is that the third-party administrator appointed by the court used a system for catching fraud that, according to Seeger, “surprisingly slowed down the settlement early on because it dragged hundreds of claims that were potentially fraudulent.”
Whatever the reason and whatever the outcome, an efficient and reliable system is needed to determine whether claims should be paid, with an independent process in place that takes everyone’s interests into account — and that keeps the NFL from directly or indirectly influencing the processing of each and every claim by using all available tactics and methods to delay or to block payment.