The NFL's brain-injury settlement was granted preliminary approval in federal court Monday, but former players and their families aren't celebrating just yet.
U.S. District Judge Anita Brody approved the revised settlement which would compensate former athletes and their heirs for brain injuries incurred by years of concussions suffered on the field. According to Reuters, these concussions were shown to cause to chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), leading to aggression and dementia.
As the settlement begins to move forward with compensation, here are three things of legal importance to keep in mind:
1. The Latest Proposed Settlement Has No Damage Cap.
Part of the reason the settlement process has taken this long is that Judge Brody rejected an earlier settlement proposal in January. The rejected settlement offered more than three-quarters of a billion dollars to compensate players and their families, but Judge Brody felt that it wouldn't be enough to compensate the potential thousands of claimants.
In response, the NFL renegotiated the settlement agreement and decided to lift the $765 million cap on damages, essentially placing no limit on the amount of cash which might be distributed to eligible claimants. This cap only refers to the total amount in settlement funds which the NFL might distribute; there are still limits as to how much each former player can hope to receive.
2. Maximum Compensation for Each Player Is $5M.
Although the damages cap has been removed, players will still only be eligible for a range of compensation based on their age, the presence of brain-related diseases, and the amount of time played in the NFL. For players who were diagnosed with ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig's disease) under age 45 and played at least five full seasons in the NFL, they may receive the maximum settlement award of $5 million.
But this deal also excludes many players who have milder brain injuries, causing some former players to object. Seven retired NFL players filed a motion opposing the court's approval of the settlement last week, calling it a "lousy deal," The Associated Press reports. With the new settlement getting preliminary approval, the unhappy players have the option to opt out and pursue their own concussion claims.
3. It's Not a Done Deal Just Yet.
Judge Brody has given the settlement a preliminary go-ahead, but the Los Angeles Times reports she's set to conduct a final fairness hearing on the settlement on November 19.
If the court determines the settlement is unfair to former players, then the NFL and the concussion victims may be back to square one.