NHL Reaches Concussion Settlement with Class of Retired Players

On November 12, 2018, the NHL announced a tentative $18.9 million settlement with a class of over 300 retired NHL players. As we have previously reported, in June, 2018, former NHL players, Dan Carcillo and Nick Boynton, led a class of retired players suing the NHL claiming that they “suffered multiple serious head traumas during [their] NHL career that were not recognized, diagnosed or treated, and improperly diagnosed and treated.” Further, over the years, while the NHL has dealt with the problematic issue of contact to the head during a game, the league “consistently failed to address the one element of its game that was inevitably unsafe for its players – fighting.” The lawsuit went as far to claim that the NHL has promoted fighting, “rivalries” and “hate” “for decades, [refusing] to eliminate fighting from its games, practices or culture because of a fear of diminishing revenue.”

However, per the terms of the settlement, the NHL did not acknowledge any liability for the former players’ claims. Each former player who opts into the settlement would receive approximately $22,000 and an additional $75,000 could be eligible for medical treatment. In order to receive the additional $75,000, players would have to test positive for degenerative brain diseases. Lastly, the NHL agreed to create a $2.5 million “Common Good Fund” for retired NHL players in need, including those who did not participate in the litigation.

Responses to the potential settlement are mixed. Reed Larson, a former NHL player, said, “[t]he cash amount of $22,000, that’s small, but we were always looking for (medical) coverage to begin with. The bottom line is this is monitoring, testing and hopefully help for players that will either have [CTE] now or could get it in the future.” The attorney representing the former players, Stuart Davidson, said “[w]hen you have a defendant who has spent millions of dollars litigating a case for four years to prove that nothing is wrong with getting your brain bashed in, you can only get so far. I think it’s important for players who have an opportunity to settle their case with the NHL now to understand that before they get anything through a trial against the NHL it’s going to cost millions of dollars in experts to get there, and that’s going to have to be paid for before they see a penny from any recovery, assuming they win.”

In a series of tweets, Carcillo urged players not to accept the settlement. According to Carcillo, the former NHL players would be forced to see the same NHL and NHLPA doctors in order to determine if they are be eligible for treatment and the extra $75,000. Carcillo went as far as to call on Wayne Gretzky’s, saying, “I want him to use his platform to help the men who protected him throughout his career. Lack of pressure from former players is a direct result of this insulting attempt at a settlement.”

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