Both sides say the $765 million settlement of concussion lawsuits filed against the NFL by about 4,500 former players is preferable to a court battle that might have dragged out a decade or more.
Not all legal observers agree, because this means no court inquiry into allegations in the lawsuits that the NFL knew about dangers of concussions and covered them up.
The settlement, subject to approval by U.S. District Judge Anita B. Brody in Philadelphia, was announced Thursday. It includes a $675 million fund to compensate ex-players with brain function disorders.
"The settlement â€1/8 will get help quickly to the men who have suffered neurological injuries playing the game. And it will do so faster and at a far, far less cost â€" both financially and emotionally â€" than would have been accomplished by continuing to litigate," said Christopher Seeger, co-lead counsel for the players.
Seeger said full litigation might taken 10 to 20 years.
Jeffrey Pash, NFL executive vice president, said it is critical to help players now "rather than spend many years and millions of dollars" in court.
Layn Phillips, the former federal judge who led the mediation, said the settlement was a preferable to arguing "thousands of complex individual claims over many years."
The settlement (with the NFL and its marketing arm NFL Properties) comes with no admission of liability by them or acknowledgement by the ex-players of any weakness in their claims.
Settlement also nullifies the pretrial court discovery, including information in NFL documents and sworn statements, that would have occurred had the cases stayed in court.
"People settle on terms they find satisfactory, but there is a strong public interest and players' interest in having information about what the NFL did or didn't do. So I think we lose that with a settlement, which is probably unfortunate," said Carl Tobias, a University of Richmond law professor.
Michael Kaplen, a practicing brain injury lawyer who teaches at George Washington University, has labeled football a "concussion delivery system" for players.
"The settlement will have the unfortunate result of hiding from the American public all the dangers that the league has known about concussions and will allow them to perpetuate the myth that football is safe," Kaplen said.
Recently, ESPN pulled out of a project for an upcoming documentary with the PBS series Frontline titled League of Denial: The NFL's Concussion Crisis. The NFL said it did not pressure ESPN, and the network said its decision was based on "editorial control" of its concussion coverage.
"I'm guessing that they (the NFL) made this settlement before the scheduled release of some documentaries on this issue that would have blown up this whole thing and made it impossible for there ever to be a settlement in this case," said Kaplen, past president of the Brain Injury Association of New York State,
"So they're buying peace now in order to keep all this quiet. There has to be Congressional investigation of the NFL under subpoena, where all the true facts come out."
Former NFL fullback Kevin Turner, who has ALS (Lou Gerhrig's Disease) welcomed the settlement. He spoke haltingly during a teleconference Thursday.
"It's been a struggle to get to this point, but today â€1/8 I am very proud that the NFL has decided to stand up for all the former players who are suffering from brain injuries," said Turner, 44, who played with the Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots from 1992-1999.
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