Wednesday, June 1st 2016 could become an historic day for thousands of former NFL Players that have been waiting patiently for the appeals to the NFL concussion settlement to be “exhausted” so that guys with serious cognitive impairments can finally begin the process of applying for monetary awards.
Thomas L. Ambro, one of the three judges that heard the original NFL Concussion Settlement appeal, said the majority of judges in the court were not in favor of rehearing the case.
When the 3 judges initially affirmed Judge Brody’s approval of the settlement, they said “This settlement will provide nearly $1 billion in value to the class of retired players. It is a testament to the players, researchers and advocates who have worked to expose the true human costs of a sport so many love. Though not perfect, it is fair.”
In an article I wrote last December, I said “Nothing is perfect for either side in a negotiated settlement, and the court acknowledged that in their remarks. Nonetheless, it appeared to the judges that the appealing lawyers wanted a perfect settlement. They noted that many of the changes recommended by the appealing players were already addressed by Judge Brody and that she had already made some significant changes to the settlement to make it fairer for former players.”
The Judges were absolutely right when they said this is a “Testament” to the players, researchers and advocates who have worked to expose the true human costs of a sport so many love.
This journey began back in 2011 when the first lawsuits began to roll in and the snowball became an avalanche that the NFL couldn’t ignore. Almost 5,000 players joined the crusade for justice that eventually led to this settlement. Those players made a tremendous sacrifice on behalf of all 20,000 former players that are now included in the final settlement. Even Dan Marino, who filed a case and then backtracked, is covered under this settlement - because he did not opt out.
The players that signed retainer agreements will be paying their lawyers around 33 % (if they receive a monetary award), whereas the 15,000 players that did not file suit are not obligated to pay a lawyer anything, unless they decide to hire a lawyer to assist them with application and claim process. That might not be such a bad idea, but I should warn former players not to sign anything that obligates you to pay a percentage of any award you might receive. Hire an attorney strictly on a fee for service arrangement - with a firm cap on the total amount they can charge you.
The lawsuits and the settlement weren’t only about getting money for injuries. Former players also wanted to see a medical monitoring system put in place and a treatment program with free prescriptions for players that were beginning to show early symptoms of impairment. The NFL will pay up to 75 million to put that medical monitoring system into place and operate it for the next 10 years. It will be known as the Baseline Assessment Program. The NFL will not be overseeing or administering the system. Judge Brody and a Special Master that reports directly to her, will make sure everything is up to snuff.
As part of the Settlement, an Education Fund of 10 million will also be established to fund programs promoting safety and injury prevention with respect to football players, including safety related initiatives in youth football. It will also be used to inform and educate retired NFL football players regarding medical and disability benefits and programs included in the Collective Bargaining Agreement.
We can see the light at the end of the tunnel, but believe it or not, some former players could still try to appeal this case to the Supreme Court of the United States – delaying it for another six months, or longer. Approximately 7,000 to 8,000 cases are filed every year, but the court hears an average of 80 cases. The chances of the Supreme court hearing an appeal on the NFL concussion settlement is slim and none.
I hope that prominent attorneys will continue to step forward and call for an end to the frivolous appeals by attorneys and a few former players who are doing nothing – other than holding the rest of us hostage to their demands.
If they were so sure that they had a good argument, they should have opted out of the settlement back when they had a chance to do so. Approximately 200 former players took that brave choice and soon we will see if it was a wise choice.