Plaintiffs Had Little Choice But to Take the Deal from the NFL

(Editor’s note: What follows is an excerpt from an article written by Jordan Kobritz, a former attorney, CPA, and Minor League Baseball team owner.  He is currently a Professor and Chair of the Sport Management Department at SUNY Cortland and is a contributing author to the Business of Sports Network. His article is one of nine that appears in the September issue of Concussion Litigation Reporter.)

You can sum up the announced settlement of the NFL concussion suit as a win, win, win:  for the players, the league and the lawyers.

The players had little choice but to accept the $765 million offer from the league.  The presiding judge in the case, Anita Brody, had imposed a September 3 deadline for both sides to report significant progress on negotiations or she would issue rulings in the case that would not be satisfactory to either party.  In July, when Judge Brody urged both sides to settle the case through mediation, she strongly indicated that she would grant the league’s motion to dismiss most, but not all, of the players’ claims.  During that meeting the judge also reminded plaintiffs’ attorneys that a number of their clients who stand to benefit from the settlement wouldn’t be around at the end of the litigation – estimated to be another decade, or more – if the case went to trial.jik-2012-small

Plaintiffs’ attorneys were also faced with a monumental, if not insurmountable, burden of proving cause and effect.  Which injuries/collisions, suffered when, were the exact cause of their current medical conditions?  Was it a hit while they were playing in the NFL, or one suffered during their college, high school or youth league days?

That’s why the settlement is a big win for the players, at least some of them.  Many players need the money to help alleviate the physical and mental effects of playing a violent game.  With 4,500 plaintiffs, you might think each of them will receive $170,000 from the settlement, but the reality is most players will receive far less.  The first $75 million will be earmarked for player medical exams.  Ten million will be used for research and education.  The remaining amount will be distributed among a total of 18,000 former players who are covered by the settlement.

Individual payouts could rise to $3 million for dementia, $4 million for those with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the deadly brain condition that has led to a number of player suicides, and $5 million for players who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.  If even 150 of the former players can prove damages for the most serious injuries, there will be precious little to distribute among the remaining 17,850 players. It should be pointed out that helmet maker Riddell, a defendant in a number of concussion related lawsuits, was not a party to the settlement, which means there may be additional funds available to the players at a later date.

Here’s where the settlement is an even bigger win for the NFL …  (to continue reading, visit

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