Federal appeals court affirms NFL concussion settlement

Federal appeals court affirms NFL concussion settlement

The US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit [official website] on Monday affirmed [opinion, PDF] a settlement agreement concerning the National Football League (NFL) [official website] and payouts to retired players with certain medical conditions [NYT report]. The settlement, originally a $765 million agreement, was changed due to worries of not surviving the settlement term of 65 years. As it was determined in preliminary agreement and then ruled [text, PDF] to be fair and reasonable by the US District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania [official website], the settlement now stands structurally similar to the original but provides for more security of payments to deserving parties.

The Settlement has three primary components. An uncapped Monetary Award Fund (“MAF”), overseen by a Claims Administrator, provides compensation for Retired Players who submit sufficient proof of Qualifying Diagnoses. A $75 million Baseline Assessment Program (“BAP&”) provides eligible Retired Players with free baseline assessment examinations of their objective neurological functioning. BAP funds will also be used to provide BAP Supplemental Benefits, including counseling and prescription drug benefits, to those who are impaired but have not deteriorated to the point of receiving a Qualifying Diagnosis. Third, an Education Fund will educate Class Members regarding the NFL Parties’ existing CBA [text, PDF] Medical and Disability Benefits programs, and promote safety and injury prevention for football players of all ages, including youth football players.

The Third Circuit acknowledged the good intentions of the limited number of objectors to the settlement agreement, but stated that with it providing nearly $1 billion in value to the designated class of people, which handles any diagnosis or absence thereof prior to the preliminary agreement date of July 7, 2014, “Though not perfect, it is fair.”

The settlement caps a rocky period for the NFL, culminating in a recent acknowledgment of the connection between football and degenerative brain disorders [NYT report]. In December JURIST Guest Columnist Alyssa Lebron of St. John’s University School of Law [official website] Class of 2016 discussed the long-term effects of concussions and the need for federal regulation in contact sports [JURIST op-ed]. In similar fashion and in the same month, JURIST Guest Columnist Carrie Clodi of Valparaiso University School of Law [official website] Class of 2017 discussed legislation regulating youth and student athlete sport participation after concussion or head injury and the necessity of continued awareness of student athlete safety [JURIST report]. As these articles point out, the developments in research concerning these sports-related health issues are creating a large focus on how to prevent the causes moving forward and how to treat the effects of past action that were not previously recognized.