The National Football League (NFL) has reached a settlement worth US$765 million in a lawsuit filed by more than 4,500 former players over concussion injuries.
Under the landmark agreement — announced on Thursday, one week before the start of this year’s season — the league and NFL Properties will contribute US$765 million to provide medical benefits and injury compensation for the retired players or their families.
The league will also fund medical and safety research, and cover litigation expenses as part of the deal.
Former US district judge Layn Phillips, the court-appointed mediator who helped forge the deal, said a trial would have been costly, long and difficult to address on a case-by-case basis, with the outcome uncertain for either side.
“This is a historic agreement, one that will make sure that former NFL players who need and deserve compensation will receive it, and that will promote safety for players at all levels of football,” Phillips said of the deal, which is still pending court approval.
“Rather than litigate literally thousands of complex individual claims over many years, the parties have reached an agreement that will provide relief and support where it is needed at a time when it is most needed,” he added.
The settlement will include all players who have retired by the date it is approved, whether they were part of the lawsuit or not.
A federal court in Philadelphia was hearing the case brought by plaintiffs who included Super Bowl-winning quarterback Jim McMahon and the family of Pro Bowl linebacker Junior Seau, who committed suicide last year.
Under the settlement’s terms, the NFL made no admission of liability or deficiency on the part of the league, or that injuries were caused by playing American football.
There will be a fund of US$675 million to compensate former players or their families who have suffered cognitive injury such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, with US$75 million more for basic medical exams. Other money will go to research and legal expenses.
Christopher Seeger, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs, said the “extraordinary agreement” would do the most important thing — get help to those who need it.
“This agreement will get help quickly to the men who suffered neurological injuries,” Seeger said. “It will do so faster and at far less cost, both financially and emotionally, than could have ever been accomplished by continuing to litigate.”