Newport Beach, CA (Sports Network) - The NFL has settled the concussion lawsuits filed by a group of former players.
Under the agreement, released Thursday by a mediation center in California, the NFL and NFL Properties will contribute $765 million to provide medical benefits and injury compensation for more than 4,500 retired NFL players or their families. It will also fund medical and safety research, and cover litigation expenses.
"This agreement lets us help those who need it most and continue our work to make the game safer for current and future players. Commissioner Goodell and every owner gave the legal team the same direction: do the right thing for the game and for the men who played it," said NFL Executive Vice President Jeffrey Pash in a statement Thursday. "We thought it was critical to get more help to players and families who deserve it rather than spend many years and millions of dollars on litigation. This is an important step that builds on the significant changes we've made in recent years to make the game safer, and we will continue our work to better the long-term health and well-being of NFL players."
The agreement came after nearly two months of negotiations under the supervision of court-appointed mediator Layn Phillips, a former United States District Judge. It must still be approved by U.S. District Judge Anita B. Brody in Philadelphia.
"This is a historic agreement, one that will make sure that former NFL players who need and deserve compensation will receive it, and that will promote safety for players at all levels of football," said Judge Phillips. "Rather than litigate literally thousands of complex individual claims over many years, the parties have reached an agreement that, if approved, will provide relief and support where it is needed at a time when it is most needed."
Once final documentation is completed, the settlement will be filed with Judge Brody, who will then schedule a hearing to consider whether to grant preliminary approval to the agreement. If the settlement receives preliminary approval, Judge Brody will direct the parties to distribute notice to the retired players. After giving retired players an opportunity to file objections to the settlement, Judge Brody will hold a hearing to consider whether to grant final approval.
Judge Brody is expected to issue the exact schedule within a few weeks.
The plaintiffs in the case included numerous Hall of Famers, including running backs Tony Dorsett and Eric Dickerson.
"This is an extraordinary agreement that will provide immediate care and support to retired players and their families," said lead plaintiffs' attorney Christopher Seeger. "This agreement will get help quickly to the men who suffered neurological injuries. It will do so faster and at far less cost, both financially and emotionally, than could have ever been accomplished by continuing to litigate."
Players involved with the lawsuits had believed that the NFL knew about the dangers of concussions and for years hid information from those who suffered such injuries during their careers.
The NFL had always denied any wrongdoing concerning player risk and in recent years has taken major steps to ensure the safety of players who suffer head injuries.
As part of the agreement, a fund of $675 million will compensate former players who have suffered cognitive injury or their families, while no more than $75 million will be spent on baseline medical exams for players. A research and education fund of $10 million will be allocated by the NFL and costs of notice to the members of the class will not exceed $4 million.
The NFL will pay approximately 50 percent of the settlement amount over three years and the balance over the next 17 years.