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NFL $765 Million Concussion-Settlement Prediction May Be Way Off
Assertion that "vast majority" of NFL retirees will accept controversial deal is contradicted by many without a vested interest, and by special master investigation of "double dipping"
The tentative deal apparently was to be presented to a federal judge for approval shortly after it was announced many months ago, but even that initial step was held up when the judge, immediately following allegations of possible wrongdoing, appointed a special master to investigate and report back to her.
More specifically, he is "reportedly investigating allegations of 'double dipping' on the part of some plaintiffs’ attorneys," according to a Pennsylvania legal journal. Forbes reported it in an article entitled "NFL Concussion Lawsuit Settlement Agreement Stalled By Judicial Intervention."
Banzhaf has predicted that more than 2,000 retirees are likely to opt out of the deal, a prediction based upon private conversations, as well as on remarks by other impartial commentators.
As Forbes reported it at the time, "According to George Washington University Law School public interest law professor John Banzhaf, more than 2,000 retired NFL players may refuse to accept the negotiated settlement, which he says would allow the NFL to keep secret what it knew about the dangers of concussions. Banzhaf further notes that even if only a small number of former players opt out of the settlement, thereby allowing the settlement to still be accepted by the court, those players who choose to opt out of the settlement class may bring separate litigation to earn additional compensation and force the NFL to disclose closely held information concerning what they knew (and maybe did not know) about concussions in the time period reflected by the players’ claims."
The deal has been severely criticized by many commentators because of the paucity of the proposed settlement payouts compared to the income and reserves of the NFL, and because it might not provide adequate compensation for many former NFL players for several reasons:
* Many will never get any money because their medical problems cannot be proven to meet the proposed settlement's high standard for compensation – which is that their condition must be “severe”
* All the money may be paid out to early claimants, so that younger players – many whose conditions are not yet "severe"– may be left holding an empty bag
* Payouts will be inadequately small because the overall settlement amount is nowhere near enough to cover all the players who may eventually seek and need financial compensation for their injuries
* Lawyers hired by the individual players may take a big chunk out of their payouts under preexisting contingency fee agreements
The overall issue is important far beyond the NFL, because similar legal actions have been filed against individual teams and the NCAA, and involve a number of sports and both male and female players.
Banzhaf said he is concerned that, if the settlement does end the matter, current and future players will never learn if the NFL has additional information about the extent and severity of concussion injuries, nor if the league has any additional information which could help mitigate the problems.
JOHN F. BANZHAF III, B.S.E.E., J.D., Sc.D.
Professor of Public Interest Law
George Washington University Law School,
FAMRI Dr. William Cahan Distinguished Professor,
Fellow, World Technology Network,
Founder, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH)
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