The Associated Press reports that a federal judge has denied preliminary approval of the NFL’s $765 million settlement to resolve concussion-related lawsuits with 4,500 former players, saying she fears the number may not be high enough.
U.S. District Judge Anita Brody has reportedly asked for more financial details from the parties, only a week after players’ lawyers filed a lengthy payout plan. Brody has said she’s concerned some former players who haven’t yet been diagnosed with a related brain injury will not receive enough money.
The proposed awards would vary based on the former player’s age and diagnosis. A younger retiree with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis — or Lou Gehrig’s disease — could receive up to $5 million; ex-players with dementia cases might receive as much as $3 million; others could get as little as $25,000 or could opt out of the deal. The NFL would also pay an additional $112 million to the players’ lawyers for their fees and expenses, for a total payout of nearly $900 million.
The deal has broken down on the cusp of one of the NFL’s biggest weekends of the season: the conference championship games featuring the league’s four best teams — San Francisco at Seattle and New England at Denver.
Previously, many football writers had dismissed the proposed settlement, which breaks down to about $150,000 per player or estate, as inadequate given the lifetime of medical expenses facing brain-damaged patients. Now it looks like Brody agrees — at least in part — with them.
A number of players’ attorneys have said the players would face a difficult time if they took the case to trial. Among the complicating factors: the difficulty of finding evidence the NFL knew about the danger of concussions; players proving their medical issues came as a result of head injuries suffered while in the NFL and not, say, in high school or college; and the sheer breadth of players involved in the lawsuits — some who were Hall of Fame inductees and others who made it only onto a practice squad, among other issues.
More than 4,500 former players have filed suit against the league, including NFL Hall of Famers Chris Doleman, Tony Dorsett and Bob Lilly.
UPDATE: Jan. 14, 2:10 p.m., ET: updated throughout.