Supreme Court Rejects Challenges to $1B NFL Concussion Settlement

Tim DanielsFeatured ColumnistDecember 12, 2016

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - AUGUST 27:  General view of the National Football League logo inside of MetLife Stadium prior to a preseason game between the New York Giants and the New York Jets on August 27, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  The Giants defeated the Jets 21-20.  (Photo by Rich Barnes/Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***
Rich Barnes/Getty Images

The United States Supreme Court officially rejected challenges Monday to a proposed $1 billion settlement plan between the National Football League and former players regarding concussions. 

The Associated Press (via ABC News) reported the court's decision will allow the agreement, which is projected to cover 20,000 players over the next 65 years, to move forward and payments to begin.

Tom Pelissero of USA Today provided a statement from the NFL about the ruling:

Jonathan Stempel of Reuters reported when the appeal process began in August 2015 that a group of 10 retired players challenged the settlement because of how it handled chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative disease linked to repeated head trauma.

"It is the height of hypocrisy for the parties to defend a settlement that offers nothing for CTE to the vast majority of class members by arguing that those claims could not prevail at trial because the science is too new," lawyer John Pentz wrote as part of the players' effort to throw out the deal.

Maryclaire Dale of the Associated Press noted at the time not all of the retired players were happy with the decision to appeal, a process that ended up lasting 16 months.

Chris Seeger, co-lead counsel for the retired plaintiffs, stated it was "heartbreaking news for injured retired NFL players who will now be forced to wait many months longer for the care and financial support they desperately need."

In June, Ken Belson of the New York Times reported the United States Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit denied a request to reconsider approval of the settlement, which had previously received unanimous affirmation from a three-judge 3rd Circuit panel.

It left the Supreme Court as the group's last resort to overturn the agreement. Although the appeals are exhausted, Darren Heitner of Forbes noted there's an ongoing legal battle between the NFL and its insurers over who should pay the settlement money.

Greg Stohr of Bloomberg pointed out the families of retired players diagnosed with CTE can receive up to $4 million, but only if they died before original approval in April 2015. Currently, the disease can only be confirmed during an autopsy.

The impact of head injuries and the long-term problems caused by CTE are hot-button issues facing not only the NFL but football at all levels.

In September 2015, Jason M. Breslow of PBS passed along the results of research into traumatic head injury by the Department of Veterans Affairs and Boston University. It found 96 percent of NFL players examined and 79 percent of those who played in high school or later showed signs of CTE after death.