Hours after a federal judge rebuffed the proposed settlement of the NFL concussion lawsuit, an attorney representing 1,200 former players blasted the deal Tuesday, telling "Outside the Lines" he will recommend that a "substantial" number of his clients reject the $765 million agreement and continue to sue the NFL.
The two surprising developments raise questions about how the landmark case that has hung over the NFL for the past three years will proceed.
The attorney, Thomas V. Girardi, said the settlement benefits severely impaired former players but leaves many others with barely "a handshake." He said he was trying to determine which players to "opt out" of the deal and continue litigation against the league.
"We're analyzing it right now to see who fits and who doesn't," Girardi said. "I would say this: A heck of a lot of them don't fit. To start giving you percentages would be a little bit over the top for me right now. But I think it will be a substantial number."
Girardi's remarks are the first indication that large numbers of players may reject the deal -- even if the settlement ultimately is approved by the judge. His remarks were all the more surprising because he sits on the players' executive committee -- a select group of lawyers charged with overseeing negotiations -- and represents roughly one-quarter of the original plaintiffs.
Girardi's comments are part of what has become an almost open rebellion by some top attorneys against the players' lead co-counsels, Christopher A. Seeger and Sol H. Weiss. Another attorney, Thomas A. Demetrio, who represents the family of former Chicago Bears defensive back Dave Duerson, told "Outside the Lines" the two negotiators have operated in a "cloak of secrecy" that has made it impossible for players to evaluate the deal.
The federal judge overseeing the case, Anita B. Brody, appeared to agree Tuesday that the deal could not be evaluated. Brody rejected preliminary approval of the settlement after concluding that negotiators failed to provide documentary evidence showing the agreement -- which covers 20,000 former players -- provides enough money for all deserving former players.
"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 wrote.
Brody ordered the players' and the NFL's attorneys to provide documentation supporting the settlement through a recently appointed special master. It's unclear why Seeger and Weiss failed to provide that information last week when the NFL and the players sought preliminary approval.
Seeger has stated repeatedly that negotiators consulted with economists and actuaries to ensure the settlement covers all deserving players. In September, he told "Outside the Lines" that an "analysis from economists, actuaries and medical experts will be presented to the court."
Demetrio called the judge's Tuesday ruling "100 percent correct." He said neither Seeger nor Weiss has "supplied any substantiation as to why this settlement is fair. The lawyers issue statements stating [they] have consulted with economists and actuaries, but nobody has seen anything."
Demetrio said he now questions nearly everything about the documents.