NFL asks judge to approve $1 billion in awards in concussion lawsuits
PHILADELPHIA — The NFL on Wednesday urged a judge to approve an estimated $1 billion settlement of concussion lawsuits despite concerns raised by former players or survivors who feel left out.
The 65-year fund would resolve thousands of lawsuits that accuse the NFL of long hiding what it knew about concussions and brain injuries to keep players on the field.
The NFL expects 6,000 of nearly 20,000 retired players (28 percent) to suffer from Alzheimer’s disease or at least moderate dementia someday. Their average payout would be about $190,000. The awards reach several million dollars for Lou Gehrig’s disease or Parkinson’s disease.
“The NFL … should have done the right thing years ago, and it can do the right thing now,” said Eleanor Perfetto of Annapolis, Md., who objects to the steep cuts in awards given to men diagnosed later in life.
Her husband, Ralph Wenzel, had Alzheimer’s disease and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) when he died in 2010. He was 69 and had been ill for more than a decade.
Some critics believe the fund lets the NFL off lightly. Others complain that there are no awards for depression, mood swings, dizziness and other problems they link to football concussions.
A chief concern is that the plan leaves out future payments for CTE, which some call the signature disease of football. The estates of players who died and were diagnosed with CTE from 2006 to 2014 can seek up to $4 million, but future deaths are excluded to avoid “incentivizing” suicide. The brain decay cannot currently be diagnosed in the living.
“The research in this area is in its infancy. (It) would be hotly contested at trial,” NFL lawyer Bruce Birenboin argued.
Lawyer Thomas Demetrio suggested the deal is a steal for the lead players’ lawyers, who stand to divide $112 million, and the NFL.
The league’s lawyers have argued that the dispute belongs in mediation under the contract, that former players can’t prove which concussion caused which injury and that many former players filed suit too late.