NFL Concussion Settlement Fails to Gain Preliminary OK

, The Legal Intelligencer


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The federal judge handling the NFL concussion case has denied preliminary approval of the $760 million settlement agreed to by the league and its former players.

U.S. District Judge Anita Brody of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania said in a short opinion issued Tuesday that she is not convinced that all of the former players who will qualify for settlement money due to various types of brain injuries sustained while they played for the National Football League will actually be able to collect from the fund.

"I am primarily concerned that not all retired NFL football players who ultimately receive a qualifying diagnosis or their related claimants will be paid," Brody said.

She tempered her concern by saying, "There is nothing to indicate that the settlement is not the result of good-faith, arm's-length negotiations between adversaries.

"Nonetheless, on the basis of the present record, I am not yet satisfied that the settlement 'has no obvious deficiencies, grants no preferential treatment to segments of the class, and falls within the range of possible approval.'" Brody quoted from a Northern District of California opinion from last summer, Cordy v. USS-Posco Industries, which gave a nod to the standard under which judges are to examine settlement agreements at the preliminary stage.

The settlement was announced at the end of August, after Brody had sent the parties to mediation with a retired federal trial judge from the Tenth Circuit, Layn Phillips.

In her brief, two-page order announcing the accord in August, Brody indicated that she favored settlement of the case, saying, "From the outset of this litigation, I have expressed my belief that the interests of all parties would be best served by a negotiated resolution of this case."

"The settlement holds the prospect of avoiding lengthy, expensive and uncertain litigation, and of enhancing the game of football," she had said.

Then, in December, Brody appointed a special master "to perform tasks in furtherance of my assessment of the parties' request for approval of the proposed settlement," she said in the order appointing Perry Golkin to the position.

"The appointment is warranted because of the expected financial complexity of the proposed settlement," she said.

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