NFL Concussion Update | November 2015

football1In April 2015, a federal district court gave final approval to a settlement between the NFL and more than 5,000 former players who accused the league of hiding information about the negative effects of concussions and other head injuries sustained while playing professional football.Despite the uncapped settlement valued at nearly $1 billion, which includes coverage for many known diseases and the ability for players diagnosed in the future to recover an average of almost $200,000 for their injuries, a handful of players appealed the settlement to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.  The oral arguments for that appeal were heard by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday, November 19, 2015. A three-judge panel consisting of Judges Ambro, Hardiman and Nygaard first heard arguments from the Objectors, then from Class Counsel for the Retired Players and then from the NFL.

Though one of the objectors’ main arguments was that the settlement does not include payments for players diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) going forward, they conceded that CTE cannot yet be diagnosed in living people.  In particular, Judge Hardiman questioned how living players could be properly treated when a CTE diagnosis can only come from an autopsy, and asked who else the objectors would include in the settlement.  The judges seemed to rebuke the objectors’ response that the settlement should cover conditions like sleep deprivation, mood swings and depression, disorders that are widespread throughout the general public and therefore difficult to affirmatively link to playing in the NFL.

Attorney Samuel Issacharoff, arguing on behalf of the Retired Players, discussed how the settlement cannot address every condition possibly faced by the retired players, but instead provides an insurance plan for the most serious neurological diseases.  He pointed out that in terms of future CTE issues, the terms of the settlement cover many of the known markers that may lead to CTE, including various stages of dementia. The settlement also provides access to funds now, which may be critically important for players with ailments that require financial aid quickly.

At one point Judge Ambro stated that “perfect is the enemy of good,” seeming to indicate sentiments that nothing is perfect, and attempts to further delay implementation of an overall good settlement in hopes of attaining a perfect one would hurt the retired players who are suffering now. He indicated that instead of waiting 6-7 years in the hopes that CTE could be diagnosed in living players, this settlement would almost immediately provide affected players with the help they need.

Pope McGlamry is proud of its role in bringing about the Finalized Settlement Agreement.  Our lawyers have served on the Plaintiff’s Steering Committee, the Communications Committee and are Co-Lead on the Discovery Committee in the Coordinated Multi-District Litigation. Thousands of Retired NFL Players will benefit from this Settlement.  If you are a Retired NFL Player who has experienced neurocognitive symptoms, feel free to contact Pope McGlamry at 877-285-7656 to schedule a case review with our expert legal team.