The New York Times reported this week that the United States Supreme Court denied a request to review a settlement between the NFL and retired players suffering from Alzheimer’s, ALS and other debilitating conditions. “The settlement, worth perhaps as much as $1 billion, covers nearly every former player for the next 65 years; the league’s actuaries estimated that just under 30 percent of them could develop Alzheimer’s or other conditions covered in the settlement,” The Times reports. Individual players could receive as much as $5 million—the amount is based on is based on their age and number of years in the league.
The settlement was originally approved by Judge Anita B. Brody of United States District Court last year, but was brought to The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit and then to the Supreme Court by a subset of retired players who believed the terms were too restrictive and would not cover certain players who developed neurological conditions over time. One of the conditions in question is chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which is linked to head hits.
According to the deal, only players diagnosed with CTE before the settlement was approved in 2015 would be covered. The subset of players also argued that the settlement did not adequately account for scientific innovations that may allow for CTE to be diagnosed in people while they are alive. Currently, the disease can be confirmed only in autopsies.
The appellate judges acknowledged the objectors’ points but found the settlement benefited the greater good among players anyway. The Supreme Court also upheld the decision by refusing the case.
Back in 2012, Leader’s Edge covered this topic in a cover story, “$1 Billion Time Bomb,” in which insurance brokers predicted even then this would be a billion-dollar hit for the NFL. The article takes a deep dive into the workers compensation system that allowed many players to take advantage of liberal rules in California to get their claims through—even players who may have done nothing more in the state than sit on the bench.
While California’s rules have since changed, workers compensation is still a vehicle for ex-players to attempt to gain compensation for what they feel is the league’s negligence. Last month, Insurance Journal reported a group of 38 former players has sued to force the NFL to pay them workers compensation benefits for CTE.
The suit asks the federal court to force the NFL to recognize CTE in living players as an occupational disease and pay the players benefits.