NFL settles concussion litigation

Allison Joyce

The NFL has settled the concussion litigation it faced from 4,500 former players. We take a look at the details and impact.

Although we focus on the 49ers here at Niners Nation, sometimes there is news that transcends our specific fandom. News has broken that the NFL agreed to a settlement with former players suing the league over concussions. I'd imagine plenty of people had not paid a lot of attention to the litigation, but this is a pretty big deal.

You can read the full details of the settlement (PDF) at the NFL's communications website. The general gist is the settlement includes $765 million plus attorneys' fees. The breakdown is as follows:

  • Baseline medical exams, the cost of which will be capped at $75 million;
  • A separate fund of $675 million to compensate former players who have suffered cognitive injury or their families;
  • A separate research and education fund of $10 million;
  • The costs of notice to the members of the class, which will not exceed $4 million; (E)$2 million, representing one-half of the compensation of the Settlement Administrator for a period of 20 years

Again, attorneys' fees appear to be independent of the $765 million, so that could bring the total up to around $1 billion, give or take. Also, do not divide the $765 million by the 4,500 or so plaintiffs. Each player will receive a different amount, with the individual cap at $5 million. They will go through various medical exams to determine the extent of injury.

The settlement also includes a clause of "No Admissions of Liability or Weakness of Claims". It states that:

The settlement does not represent, and cannot be considered, an admission by the NFL of liability, or an admission that plaintiffs' injuries were caused by football. Nor is it an acknowledgement by the plaintiffs of any deficiency in their case. Instead, it represents a decision by both sides to compromise their claims and defenses, and to devote their resources to benefit retired players and their families, rather than litigate these cases.

It is important to note that this is often what you see in a settlement, so no admission of guilt should not be a surprise.

This is a big number, but in the grand scheme of the NFL, the league would seem to be getting away pretty lucky. They could very well have won at trial, but juries are unpredictable, and the NFL can try and move past a huge PR problem. I'm a little surprised the plaintiffs would agree to this kind of number, but given that some likely need treatment immediately, that makes some sense.

The Washington Times has a database of every former player involved in the lawsuit. There are 240 players listed as having spent some amount of time with the 49ers. The most notable former 49ers includes John Brodie, Garrison Hearst, Gary Plummer Joe Perry, Jim Druckenmiller and many others. The most interesting player in my mind is former offensive lineman Steve Wallace. For those who don't remember him, he wore a shell on top of his helmet because of concussion issues. Here is an interesting article about him and his helmet.

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