(Reuters) - Former National Football League players who oppose the league’s potential $1 billion settlement of lawsuits claiming it hid the risk of concussions asked a federal appeals court on Monday to throw out the accord.
In a filing with the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia, 10 former players said the settlement with more than 5,000 retirees was unfair because it did not properly treat players yet to be diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative condition linked to repeated blows to the head.
These players, including five-time Pro Bowl defensive lineman Fred Smerlas, said the settlement unfairly favored currently injured retirees over those merely exposed to head trauma, and left a potential 19,000 players who have yet to be diagnosed with neurological diseases without a remedy.
“It is the height of hypocrisy for the parties to defend a settlement that offers nothing for CTE to the vast majority of class members by arguing that those claims could not prevail at trial because the science is too new,” lawyer John Pentz wrote for the objecting players.
Monday was the deadline to object to the settlement. As many as a dozen appeals were expected, covering about 90 retirees including Hall of Fame linebacker and defensive end Charles Haley and Pro Bowl guards Alan Faneca and Nate Newton.
The settlement was approved on April 22 by U.S. District Judge Anita Brody in Philadelphia.
It provides payments of up to $5 million to players who suffer from serious medical conditions associated with repeated head trauma.
The NFL and lawyers for settling players have until Sept. 15 to respond to the objections. There is no timetable for the appeals court to issue a decision.
“These appeals are heartbreaking news for injured retired NFL players who will now be forced to wait many months longer for the care and financial support they desperately need,” said Chris Seeger, co-lead counsel for the plaintiffs.
Seeger said more than 99 percent of retired players endorsed the accord. A spokesman said the settlement affects more than 20,000 retired NFL players.
NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy declined to comment.
In the first of Monday’s objections, the 10 retirees said “no settlement at all” was better than one offering nothing for the “vast majority” of former players, who “will probably die with evidence of CTE in their brains.”
They noted that CTE was found during the autopsies of Hall of Fame linebacker Junior Seau and Pro Bowl safety Dave Duerson, who both committed suicide.
The lead case is In re: National Football League Players Concussion Injury Litigation, 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Nos. 15-2206.
Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Alan Crosby