NFL Withdraws Controversial Appeal Just Before Hearing
On January 9, 2019, one day before a scheduled hearing, the NFL withdrew its appeal that previously outraged attorneys representing former NFL players in concussion class-action litigation. As we have previously reported, in April 2015, the NFL entered into a settlement agreement with almost 22,000 former players. The settlement established a 65-year uncapped monetary fund for players who could prove certain neurological diagnoses. The settlement provided a $75 million “baseline assessment program” that provided eligible retired players with neurological examinations, a $10 million education fund to promote safety and injury prevention in youth football, and to inform retired players of their medical benefits. Lastly, the settlement offered payments ranging from $1.5 million to $5 million for each player, or the player’s estate, who suffered from a serious degenerative condition in connection with a traumatic brain injury.
The settlement, like the case itself, experienced its fair share of controversy. Most recently, the NFL planned to appeal, and challenge, language in the settlement agreement that allowed a group of doctors, who evaluate players’ injuries, to deviate from the strict guidelines used by a different group of doctors, so long as their methods were “generally consistent” with the stricter guidelines. The NFL framed their argument as an honest attempt to weed out dishonest and incompetent doctors. In response, lawyers representing former players vehemently accused the NFL of trying to delay payments, rewrite the entire settlement, and reclaim power over the settlement. Because of the outrage, the NFL decided to withdrew its appeal; however, U.S. District Judge Anita Brody, noting the NFL’s concerns, ordered doctors to justify their findings in the event of a contested case.