Updates from Thursday, April 17
A judge overseeing thousands of NFL concussion-linked lawsuits says lawyers are still working to address her concerns about a proposed $765 million fund.
U.S. District Judge Anita Brody says she fears the fund may not be large enough to cover up to 20,000 retired players for 65 years.
Lawyers have given her more data to weigh since she rejected the deal on a preliminary basis in January.
The judge says in a Thursday order the parties are continuing to work with the court "to address the issues." She also has clarified an order this week denying approval of the deal was not a new ruling. She says she was simply adding the January ruling to some case files.
Updates from Saturday, Jan. 25
ESPN's Steve Fainaru and Mark Fainaru-Wada report lawyers are currently involved in an on-going dispute surrounding the settlement details:
One week after a federal judge refused to grant preliminary approval of the NFL concussion settlement, the lead negotiator for the players is engaged in an increasingly bitter campaign to beat back opposition to the $765 million deal.
Legal experts said the growing fissures among former players and lawyers could undermine the settlement after Judge Anita B. Brody's surprise ruling, which requested more information amid concerns there is not enough money to cover all qualifying players.
The $765 million concussion settlement reached between the NFL and its former players has suffered a setback after failing to receive approval in the U.S. District Court.
Albert Breer of the NFL Network reports Judge Anita Brody refused to give the settlement preliminary approval after review:
The Judge in US District Court overseeing the concussion case has DENIED preliminary approval of the settlement b/w players and the NFL.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) January 14, 2014
After months of negotiations, the NFL reached a settlement with more than 4,500 former players in a joint lawsuit related to concussion-related injuries back in late August. Breer reported compensation to all ex-players amounts to $675 million of the settlement, with $75 million going to medical exams and another $10 million going to research and education. The former players went into negotiations seeking more than $2 billion to settle, per Steve Fainaru and Mark Fainaru-Wada of ESPN.com, but got far less.
Breer states today's decision doesn't mean the settlement won't eventually be accepted by the court, but rather the judge wants further research into the numbers to make sure it's financially sound before signing off on the agreement:
Judge Brody is basically asking for a special master to look at actuarial data, and make sure the economics are in order. Not a hard "no".— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) January 14, 2014
ESPN's Andrew Brandt adds that neither side provided any analysis of the numbers from economists to support their belief that the settlement would be enough to support all the former players who may seek assistance:
Brody is concerned about sufficiency of funds and the parties did not attach their economists' financial analysis of the numbers.— Andrew Brandt (@adbrandt) January 14, 2014
He also passed along some remarks from Judge Brody:
Brody: "Plaintiffs’ counsel “believe” that the aggregate sum is sufficient..unfortunately, no such analyses were provided to me."— Andrew Brandt (@adbrandt) January 14, 2014
Judge Brody: "In the absence of additional supporting evidence, I have concerns about the fairness, and adequacy of the Settlement"— Andrew Brandt (@adbrandt) January 14, 2014
Brandt also outlined what's next in the case:
Next step on concussion settlement: lawyers submit economic forecast to Special Master. Am told will be "within 10 days or so."— Andrew Brandt (@adbrandt) January 14, 2014
On cue, plaintiff attorneys are "confident settlement will be approved" and "will confirm the programs will be sufficiently funded."— Andrew Brandt (@adbrandt) January 14, 2014
The decision comes as concerns continued to be raised about the settlement. Ken Belson of The New York Times reported some players were considering an option to opt out of the deal even before the judge's latest decision.
He included comments from Fred Smerlas, a former player who was concerned not every player in need of help would get it based on their condition:
"If you're a vegetable and can't do anything, you'll get money, but if you're struggling every day and can't sleep, you don't get any money," said Fred Smerlas, an All-Pro nose tackle who played 14 seasons with the Buffalo Bills, the San Francisco 49ers and the New England Patriots. "This is no settlement, this is window dressing. It's hard for someone with a bow tie and a pipe to know what’s going on in our heads."
Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk noted in December that former quarterback Craig Morton had already decided to opt out of the deal. He sued the NFL on the basis that the league should have known more about the risks involved with head injuries:
On Tuesday, Morton sued the NFL and NFL Properties in California federal court. The 11-count, 373-paragraph complaint, a copy of which PFT has obtained, alleges that the NFL knew or should have known the risks of repeated blows to the head. The complaint specifically alleges that quarterbacks like Morton historically have been more exposed to head injuries, given that defensive players try to "sack" them.
It's unclear how long it will take for the lawyers on both sides to satisfy Judge Brody's remaining questions, but the sensitive issue isn't being taken care of as quickly as the NFL hoped.