Friday, August 30, 2013

NFL reaches settlement over head injury lawsuits.

Several media outlets report on the settlement reached between the National Football League and former players who sued the league over allegations that it hid the long-term health effects that concussions could have on players who suffered them.

        ABC World News reports that the NFL will pay $765 million in order to settle more than 4,500 lawsuits from retired players who are “dealing with injuries they believe are the result of on field concussions.” The piece says that according to the players, the “NFL deliberately covered up the risk” of concussions. The CBS Evening News adds that if the settlement “is approved by a Federal judge, it will end the suit which exposed the NFL to what could have been billions of dollars in damages.” The report says that in addition to the compensatory figure, the settlement includes “$75 million to provide baseline medical exams” and adds that “Commissioner Roger Goodell pushed for the settlement, telling league lawyers to do the right thing for the game and the men who played it.” However, ABC World News notes that according to critics, the NFL is being “let off the hook” as the settlement isn’t large enough and that by “Not having to open up its files, not having to open up its books, the NFL gets a chance to not be examined in a way that could have been very embarrassing.” Nevertheless, ABC World News says that “the money will bring immediate relief for the league’s 19,000 former players, every one of whom will be eligible for a medical exam.” Notwithstanding the monetary award, the piece points out that the settlement “does not require the NFL to make any safety changes to reduce concussions.”

        NBC Nightly News reports that despite the payout, the $765 million figure is “less than 10 percent of the league’s revenue from just last year.”

        The New York Times (8/29, Belson, Subscription Publication, 9.44M) says that as part of the agreement, the league will also set up a $10 million research fund and will pay the plaintiff’s attorney’s fees. In addition, nearly “half of the settlement amount will be paid over the next three years, if the deal is approved, with the balance paid over the next 17 years.” The article adds that the settlement “will be seen as a positive outcome for the league, which, should the lawsuit have moved forward, was facing the potential of billions of dollars in liability payments and a lengthy and almost assuredly revealing discovery phase in which league officials and doctors would likely have been deposed.” Moreover, by settling the lawsuits, the league didn’t have to admit “that it hid information on the long-term effects of head trauma from its players.” Nevertheless, the Times says that “players will have an opportunity to opt out of the deal.”

        The AP (8/29, Dale) reports that according to lead plaintiff’s lawyer Christopher Seeger, “Individual payouts would be capped at $5 million for men with Alzheimer’s disease; $4 million for those diagnosed after their deaths with a brain condition called chronic traumatic encephalopathy; and $3 million for players with dementia.”

        In separate pieces, ABC World News and the CBS Evening News offer expert analysis, in which they say that the NFL has prevailed in the settlement. Nevertheless, NBC Nightly News interviews Bob Costas of NBC Sports who says that the agreement “closes a chapter, but it doesn’t close the book.” Costas says that the increasing attention to head injuries in the league has lead to a decrease in youth football participation and could “erode” the popularity of the league.
        Reuters (8/29) and the Sports Business Daily (8/29, Kaplan, 5K) also cover this story.

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