NFL agrees to eliminate cap on player payments in concussion lawsuit

Wed Jun 25, 2014 4:46pm EDT
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By Curtis Skinner

(Reuters) - The National Football League has agreed to remove a $675 million ceiling it had placed on payments to former players who were part of a groundbreaking lawsuit over concussions suffered on the field, it said on Wednesday.

The NFL's agreement removes a major hurdle in reaching a settlement with thousands of retired players by ensuring payments to those who develop certain neurocognitive conditions including dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. A federal judge hesitated to sign off on an earlier deal because she worried the money set aside by the league would be insufficient to pay all the affected players.

Under the revised terms between the NFL and the former players who brought the suit, payments of up to $5 million will be guaranteed to any retired player who develops the neurological illnesses. Payments will be based on a formula that considers years played in the league and their age at diagnosis. The fund is set to last 65 years from when it is authorized.

The deal was reached under the supervision of U.S. District Judge Anita Brody, who presided over the case and had expressed earlier concerns. Brody must still finalize the agreement, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for Eastern Pennsylvania for preliminary approval.

"This modification will allay any fears that this fund will not last for its intended lifespan," said Christopher Seeger, an attorney for the players, during a teleconference with reporters. "If an eligible retired player develops a qualifying condition, this fund will be there for him. Period."

Both sides said they were confident in their earlier award estimates and did not say how much the revision could add to the cost of the settlement. An analysis by the New York Times, however, estimated that costs to the NFL could exceed $1 billion.

4,500-PLUS IN ORIGINAL SUIT   Continued...