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History made as NFL settles concussion lawsuit for $765m

The settlement will be paid out through medical benefits and injury compensation to more than 4,500 players.

Chicago Bears (now retired) linebacker Brian Urlacher admitted in November 2012 he would lie to cover up a concussion.
Chicago Bears (now retired) linebacker Brian Urlacher admitted in November 2012 he would lie to cover up a concussion.
Image: AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File

THE NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE has reached a settlement worth $765 million in a lawsuit filed by more than 4,500 former players over concussion injuries.

Under the landmark agreement — announced one week before the start of the 2013 NFL season — the league and NFL Properties will contribute $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.”

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 former Dallas Cowboys running back Tony Dorsett, Super Bowl winning quarterback Jim McMahon and the family of Pro Bowl linebacker Junior Seau, who committed suicide last year.

imageNFL Hall of Fame running back Tony Dorsett was one of the plaintiffs in the landmark lawsuit. (AP Photo/Martha Irvine, File)

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.

“It represents a decision by both sides to compromise their claims and defenses and to devote their resources to benefit retired players and their families rather than litigate these cases,” Phillips said.

There will be a fund of $675m to compensate former players or their families who have suffered cognitive injury such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, with $75m more for basic medical exams. Other money will go to research and legal expenses.

The NFL would pay half of the settlement over three years and the other half over the following 17 years.

Phillips said the deal was not an admission by the NFL that it hid information on the long-term impact of field hits on the health of players, something that ex-players had claimed in some of the lawsuits.

“It doesn’t mean that the NFL hid information,” he said. “It does not mean that the plaintiffs’ injuries were caused by (American) football. On the other hand, it doesn’t mean that the plaintiffs wouldn’t have been able to prove their case.”

NFL executive vice president Jeffrey Pash said it was more important to provide help to players sooner even as they faced fighting against that very thing in court.

“We thought it was critical to get more help to players and families who deserve it rather than spend many years and millions of dollars on litigation,” Pash said.

“This is an important step that builds on the significant changes we’ve made in recent years to make the game safer, and we will continue our work to better the long-term health and well-being of NFL players.”

The NFL Players Association, which represents active players, reacted cautiously. “All of the plaintiffs involved are part of our player community, and we look forward to learning more about the settlement,” the union said in a statement.

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.”

© AFP,2013

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