A federal judge has approved a preliminary settlement between the NFL and lawyers for the more than 4,500 retired players who sued the league, accusing it of hiding the dangers of concussions and repeated head hits.
The judge’s consent, which was widely anticipated, means that all of the roughly 18,000 retired players and their beneficiaries can now vote on the deal, which includes a promise from the NFL to pay an unlimited amount of awards to players with certain severe neurological conditions.
Legal experts anticipate that it will be approved because the new settlement addressed the main concern that U.S. District Court Judge Anita B. Brody of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania had with the original plan.
That deal included $765 million for cash awards, medical testing and education. Brody, though, rejected it in January because, like some retired players, she was concerned that there would not be enough money to cover the 65-year life of the settlement.
About two weeks ago, the league and the plaintiffs’ lawyers announced a revised settlement that removed the cap on damages.
The new settlement, though, allows the NFL to contest an unlimited number of requests for awards by retired players as a way to prevent fraudulent claims. Some players argue that this will narrow the number of people who might ultimately receive cash awards.
In the coming weeks, retired players will receive packets in the mail explaining the terms of the settlements. Players will be deemed to be in favor of the deal unless they opt out, which preserves their legal rights. They can also object to portions of the deal.
A group of seven players last week filed a formal objection to the settlement. If the judge does not act on their objections, they can appeal the settlement. No cash awards will be dispersed until all appeals are exhausted.