This Time A Federal Judge Is Throwing The Penalty Flag.


It isn’t news that over 4,500 former NFL players sued the NFL in federal court seeking payment for concussion and concussion-related injuries.  What shocked many people was the settlement announcement in August 2013 where both sides agreed to the NFL paying $765 million to end the suit.  The settlement was subject to approval by the Court pursuant to rules of federal procedure.

In January 2014 the parties filed a joint motion seeking preliminary approval of the settlement.  The motion was nearly 80 pages long and included details of how the money would be used:

  • to establish a fund for payments to former players
  • to establish medical buy accutane testing procedures to determine players’ eligibility for funds
  • to establish a Baseline Assessment Program that will begin testing retired players for eligibility and monitoring for future eligibility
  • to establish caps of per-player payments based upon the type and nature of injury/condition
  • to educate players, youth and the public about cognitive impairments and prevention of them

These are only a few of the details found in the settlement plan.  The complete Motion can be found here: Prelim-Approval.

The Settlement Proposal, nearly 180 pages, can be found here: Settlement-Agreement

On January 14, 2014 the judge who reviewed the settlement proposal and the motion refused to give it preliminary approval.  Why?  If both sides are happy, why isn’t the judge happy?  The judge heard arguments from the attorneys and reviewed the settlement plan but had doubts that $765 million was enough to fulfill the promises long term.  She’s asked for more financial documentation.  In theory, there are more than 20,000 retired NFL players and dividing the pool evenly among them results in equal payments of no more than $38,000.00.  That number assumes the fund is divided to the players without any money taken out for management, attorneys’ fees, costs of the suit, or the other programs promised by the settlement.

The attorneys for the players and the NFL will be providing the judge with further documentation about the feasibility of the settlement and details of how the money will be distributed, invested, or used for management and operation of the programs. The deal isn’t dead yet, but it has been moved back about 20 yards and is facing a fourth-down situation.  If this deal doesn’t get Court approval, it’s off to trial for both sides, or back to the negotiating table.  And if the judge refuses to approve a settlement of $765 million, I can only speculate about how big a settlement amount would need to be in order to get her approval.

If you are following the concussion case you can access various court documents online to read the Complaint, Answer, and motions.

Johanna R. Kirk

Kirk Law Office, L.L.C.  1418 Tower Avenue Suite #6; Superior, WI 54880  (715) 718-2424