Judge questions whether 765 million dollar settlement will be enough to cover claims by every player.
(NBC) - A $760 million settlement between the National Football League and thousands of former players, who contend the league downplayed the risk of concussions, has been rejected by a U.S. judge who said it might not be enough to pay all of the affected players.The proposed deal, reached in August, had set aside up to $5 million for each former player diagnosed with a certain brain condition as a result of their years on the playing field.
"I am primarily concerned that not all retired NFL football players who ultimately receive a qualifying diagnosis, or their related claimants, will be paid," U.S. District Judge Anita Brody wrote in papers filed in federal court in Philadelphia.
"Even if only 10 percent of retired NFL football players eventually receive a qualifying diagnosis, it is difficult to see how the monetary award fund would have the funds available over its lifespan to pay all claimants at these significant award levels," the decision said.
Brody called on the NFL and plaintiffs to submit documentation that they believed showed the money set aside was adequate to meet the potential need.
"They are going to have to come back with a different settlement," said Joseph Farelli, a partner in the New York law firm Pitta & Giblin, which specializes in labor law. "She is saying the amount is not going to cover the people they say are going to be covered by the settlement."
An NFL spokesman had no immediate comment on the decision.
The lawsuit, filed in 2012, contended that the league hid the dangers of brain injury among players while profiting from the sport's sometimes violent physical contact. When the settlement was first disclosed in August, sports business experts described it as a modest amount of money for the NFL, which is believed to generate total annual revenue of between $9 billion and $10 billion.
The judge's move to block the deal reflects her responsibility to ensure that it is fair both to the named plaintiffs and others covered in the class.
There have been suicides in recent years by current and former NFL players, including Junior Seau, Ray Easterling and Dave Duerson. While their deaths could not be directly connected to the sport, violent or erratic behavior is consistent with symptoms of a condition tied to repeated hits to the head.
Seau's family claimed that his suicide resulted from brain disease caused by repeated hits to the head during his football career.
A growing body of academic research shows those hits can lead to a condition known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy, which can lead to aggression and dementia. The research has already prompted the NFL to make changes on the field, including banning the most dangerous helmet-to-helmet hits and requiring teams to keep players who have taken hits to the head off the field if they show certain symptoms including dizziness and memory gaps.