Lawsuit funding is NO LONGER AVAILABLE on NFL Concussion Cases
NFL Concussion Settlement
4/22/2015 CNN.com: Federal judge Anita Brody has given final approval to a class-action lawsuit settlement between the National Football League and thousands of former players.
The agreement provides up to $5 million per retired player for serious medical conditions associated with repeated head trauma. While the lawsuit was a combination of hundreds of actions brought by more than 5,000 ex-NFL players, the settlement applies to all players who retired on or before July 7, 2014. It also applies to the family members of players who died or committed suicide before that date.
What Is Up With The NFL?
In the past 20 years or so, many have debated that the National Football League (NFL) knew about the side effects of dangerous contact sport. Several doctors and researchers have found that concussions, as well as other traumatic brain injuries caused by American football, have resulted in adverse side effects in former and present NFL players.
One of the most common side effects, as per lawsuits filed, was that of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a progressive degenerative disease that leads individuals suffering from the condition to show signs of dementia, such as memory loss, aggression, confusion, and depression.
Other former NFL players have also suffered other diseases from repetitive brain trauma, such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and neurocognitive impairment (dementia).
Unfortunately, chronic traumatic encephalopathy can only be diagnosed post mortem. Aside from repetitive brain trauma, other risk factors for the disease are currently still unknown. In addition, the symptoms and side effects of the disease only manifest in patients years or decades after the trauma occurs.
Several former NFL players have committed suicide, which is believed to have been caused by depression from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the disease that was later found in the brains of the deceased NFL players.
Over 5,000 lawsuits have been filed against the NFL by former players, legal representatives, and family members, which allege the league of presenting false and misleading results of their commissioned study on concussions related to chronic traumatic encephalopathy.
The lawsuits further claim that the NFL concealed the adverse and life-threatening consequences of the repetitive concussions contracted from the sport. Moreover, lawsuits also allege that it wasn’t until June 2010 when the NFL actually acknowledged the side effects from the concussions.
Just this year, a final order on the NFL concussion lawsuit settlement agreement was achieved. The agreement states strict stipulations on which former NFL players and/or their families would be eligible to claim the benefits and monetary awards from the settlement agreement.
There has been a long ongoing debate on the effects of concussions on players of American football. Many doctors and researchers have argued that concussions, among other traumatic brain injuries caused by the sport, result in suicides and other side effects post-retirement. These include memory loss, depression, and chronic traumatic encephalopathy, which only manifest years or even decades after the trauma.
Chronic traumatic encephalopathy is a progressive degenerative disease and people suffering from this condition have a history of repetitive brain trauma, and also show signs of dementia, such as memory loss, aggression, confusion, and depression, which manifest years after the occurrence of the trauma.
Unfortunately, diagnosing chronic traumatic encephalopathy is much more troublesome, simply because it can only be done post-mortem. In addition, risk factors for the disease are unknown, aside from repetitive brain trauma.
The disease is not limited to American football, but to any contact sport, including association football, ice hockey, and professional wrestling, which are associated with repetitive brain trauma.
On September 30 2014, news broke out regarding studies done by Dr. Ann McKee and her colleagues on the brains of former NFL players. The findings showed that 76 out of the 79 brains examined suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy. The study was the largest brain bank study as of current date, in addition to it being a two-fold increase in the number of confirmed chronic traumatic encephalopathy cases.
Forensic pathologist and neuropathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu was one of the doctors who first found traces of chronic traumatic encephalopathy in NFL players. In fact, he was the one who found the disease in the brains of Mike Webster, Terry Long, Andre Waters, Justin Strzelczyk, and Tom McHale.
Omalu – one of the co-founders of the Brain Injury Research Institute — worked as a medical examiner in 2012, and was also one of the doctors who discovered the disease in Junior Seau’s brain.
Bennet Omalu was one of the doctors who challenged the NFL, when he first brought the concussion findings to the league. As the NFL’s committee dismissed his study results and conclusions to protect the institution, Dr. Bennet Omalu was accused of fraud, among many other things.
Lawsuits and Litigation
75 former NFL players filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles, California Superior Court against the National Football League in July 2011. Plaintiffs allege the institution of concealing the adverse side effects of concussions since the 1920s decade.
Former Miami Dolphins player Mark Duper and former New York Giants players Otis Anderson and Rodney Hampton were just three of the first plaintiffs in the lawsuit filing.
Based on the initial filing, the plaintiffs claimed that the NFL contracted a study back in 1994, called “NFL Committee on Mild Traumatic Brain Injury.” A following report was published in 2004, showing that there was “no evidence of worsening injury of chronic cumulative effects” from numerous concussions.
However, the lawsuit argues that the reported results were false and misleading, simply to conceal the serious and life threatening consequences and Mild Traumatic Brain Injury in an attempt to protect the image and brand of the NFL.
Additionally, the lawsuit also alleges that it wasn’t until June 2010 when the NFL recognized that these concussions could ultimately lead to dementia, memory loss, chronic traumatic encephalopathy, and other linked side effects.
By 2013, more than 5,000 former NFL players have filed lawsuits against the football league. An initial settlement finally came in late 2013, although it was eventually rejected by Philadelphia Federal Court Judge Anita Brody. Meanwhile, plaintiffs and attorneys further questioned the amount stated in the settlement.
The landmark settlement was finally approved in August 2014 for $765 million, which stipulated two changes in the agreement: (1) the settlement funds for treatment would be “uncapped” and would span 65 years for all retirees that qualified; and (2) The NFL could appeal any claims it believed would be the subject of fraud (the initial settlement had a limitation as to how many appeals the defendant could make).
A class action lawsuit was filed against the NFL, which resulted in the NFL, NFL Properties, former NFL players, their representatives, and their family members reaching a settlement agreement.
The lawsuit claimed that the NFL did not warn players and concealed the dangers and side effects of repetitive brain trauma. It was only on July 7, 2014 when the Court allowed preliminary approval of the settlement. It was only in April 22, 2015 when the settlement agreement was issued a final approval.
According to the New York Times, “As part of the deal, the NFL insisted that all retired players – not just the 5,000 or so who sued the league – be covered by the settlement as a way to fend off lawsuits in the future.”
Retired NFL players, legal representatives of incapacitated or deceased players, and families who filed lawsuits in behalf of the deceased players are entitled to receive benefits, as per the settlement agreement, which provides the following benefits:
Baseline medical exams for retired NFL players
Monetary awards for diagnoses of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, dementia, and other certain cases of chronic traumatic encephalopathy diagnosed after death
Education programs and initiatives related to football safety
Additionally, all valid claims for injury would eventually be paid in full for 65 years. Retired players, legal representatives, and family members need not show evidence that the players’ injuries were caused by playing in the National Football League to be compensated through the settlement. For each level of claim, a proposed maximum amount sets as a cap before adjustments would consequently be made.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) has a maximum amount of $5 million
Death with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (diagnosed after death) has a maximum amount of $4 million
Parkinson’s disease has a maximum amount of $3.5 million
Alzheimer’s disease has a maximum amount of $3.5 million
Level 2 neurocognitive impairment (moderate dementia) has a maximum amount of $3 million
Level 1.5 neurocognitive impairment (early dementia) has a maximum amount of $1.5 million
Moreover, these monetary awards may also be increased of up to 2.5 percent per year during the 65-year monetary award fund term due to inflation.
In order to receive the maximum amount stipulated above, the retired player must have played in the NFL for five eligible seasons, in addition to being diagnosed at an age no more than 45 years old.
According to CNN, the settlement is only applicable to former NFL players who retired on or before July 7, 2014, as per “Judge Anita Brody’s 132-page decision.” In addition, the settlement is also applicable to family members of former NFL players who passed away before the said date.
A class member who initially opted out of the settlement cannot receive the settlement agreement benefits. No payments or awards have yet been made, although the settlement process has already been ongoing. There has yet to be a determined date as to when claimants can receive the monetary award benefits from the settlement agreement.
Former NFL Players Committing Suicide
In January 2013, the family of Junior Seau released findings and reports showing that the former linebacker had chronic traumatic encephalopathy. The disease is believed to cause his depression, which ultimately led to his suicide in 2012.
Also in January 2013, the Seau family filed a lawsuit against the NFL over the brain injuries that Junior Seau unknowingly suffered from.
In September 2014, the family and estate of Junior Seau decided to opt out of the settlement, stating that the $4 million settlement amount, in addition to other legal issues, was not sufficient.
The family of former San Diego Chargers, Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots linebacker is currently fighting the NFL in court to reveal the truth about what the league initially knew about symptoms and side effects of repetitive concussions.
The death of Junior Seau also spared news over the suicide of another former NFL player, Dave Duerson, who shot himself in the chest in 2011. Duerson left a suicide message stating that he wanted his brain to be donated to study brain trauma.
The former Chicago Bears, New York Giants, and Phoenix Cardinals player was also found to have chronic traumatic encephalopathy, which is also deemed to have caused his depression and suicide.
However, unlike the Seau family, Dave Duerson’s family is eligible to receive the benefits and monetary awards from the settlement agreement.
It was in December 2012 when Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher murdered his girlfriend. Following the killing, the former NFL player drove to Arrowhead Stadium where he also committed suicide in front of the general manager at the time, Scott Pioli and head coach Romeo Crennel at the time.
It was only a year later when Belcher’s family filed a wrongful death lawsuit in behalf of Jovan Belcher’s daughter, who was of minor age. The lawsuit was filed against the Kansas City Chiefs, claiming that the team intentionally ignored signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy in Belcher, which eventually lead to his suicide. It was only in September 2014 when Belcher was confirmed to have been suffering from the disease.