Supreme Court Declines to Hear Appeal of $1B NFL Concussion Settlement

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By Christopher Coble, Esq. on December 15, 2016 12:58 PM

Nagging litigation between the National Football League and retired players over treatment of concussions might finally be drawing to a close. The two sides first reached a settlement over three years ago, but the settlement itself has been contentious, with hundreds of former players opting out of the settlement to file their own lawsuits and a judge even saying that the initial settlement amount of $765 million wasn't enough.

But, finally, the Supreme Court on Monday refused to review the settlement, meaning it could go into effect as early as March, when the NFL will begin paying out around $1 billion over the next 65 years.

Replay Review

There were two petitions from former players asking for Supreme Court review, but as Sports Illustrated's Michael McCann notes, they had little chance of success. Given the sheer volume of petitions, any given request has about a one to two percent chance of being granted Supreme Court review. On top of that, there was little for the Court to review:

Only one federal circuit--the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit--has ruled on the concussion settlement. This is because approximately 5,000 concussion lawsuits were consolidated into one case that was heard in the Third Circuit. Further, within that federal circuit, two sets of federal judges unanimously approved the concussion settlement: U.S. District Judge Anita Brody approved the settlement in April 2015 and, a year later, Judges Thomas Ambro, Thomas Hardiman and Richard Nygaard of the U.S Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit upheld Judge Brody's decision. The lack of dissenting view took away a potential rationale for the Supreme Court to reconsider the settlement.

Forward Progress

While this means one legal headache has been put to rest, other concussion suits are likely to spring up. Remember, all those players who opted out of this settlement may yet file their own lawsuits. And while some former players are fortunate to at least receive some compensation for the NFL's mistreatment of concussion-related injuries, many say those benefits are far from adequate, and don't begin to address harm current players may suffer.

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