Seven former NFL players filed a court motion Monday to challenge the $765 million NFL concussion settlement, arguing that the deal struck between the league and thousands of ex-players who sued it falls short of covering the most serious cases of disease related to head trauma.
The seven players say they are suffering early symptoms of brain disease and that the settlement as constructed will neither compensate them nor other players who suffer the most serious cases of brain-related diseases. Their claim, filed Monday in federal court in Philadelphia, requests that the judge overseeing the case allow them to intervene in the case to represent players they believe have been ignored.
"There are serious problems with what has been proposed," the players' attorney, Steven Molo told "Outside the Lines." "Although these players are suffering serious problems, they will be barred from any compensation if this proposal is ever adopted."
The action is one of many filed by a growing chorus of players who are not satisfied with the terms of the settlement that were first proposed last summer. A committee of lawyers who negotiated the settlement for thousands of players asked Judge Anita Brody in early January for preliminary approval of the deal. Brody was not satisfied with the terms, refusing to approve it until lawyers showed her that the "award fund" for payment of players would have the necessary "funds available over its lifespan to pay all claimants."
In the four months since Brody demanded such proof, the players' attorneys have resisted disclosure of the actuarial basis for their proposal amid growing impatience and resistance from players.
The seven players who filed their objections Monday say they are suffering from maladies such as sensitivity to noise, visual impairments, chronic pain, intermittent depression, problems with sleep, memory deficits, and other problems that are precursors to chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the now-notorious brain damage that was found in former stars Junior Seau and Dave Duerson, both of whom committed suicide.
Even though the seven players are suffering conditions that could result in CTE in later years, the settlement proposal offers no payments for their conditions and would bar any future claims, they say. The settlement proposal includes a clause that results in all players releasing future claims. The only avenue for these players to collect, Molo said, is to opt out of the settlement and pursue future litigation.
Under the terms of the proposed settlement, a player who dies as the result of CTE is entitled to $4 million. But any player who dies from CTE after the approval of the proposal would collect nothing.
For any player to collect compensation before his medical situation reaches the level of CTE, the settlement proposal requires that they suffer from specified levels of dementia. Although his clients suffer from serious and disabling symptoms, Molo said, none of them has reached the stage of dementia that would qualify them for a payment under the settlement proposal.
The players also suggest that the settlement's proposed offset of 75 percent of any damages awarded for any stroke that is not related to football is not fair to players who were subjected to routine use of the drug Toradol, a medication that reduces pain, allows players to play when hurt, and can result in strokes. One of the attorneys advocating the settlement, Chris Seeger, represents players who used Toradol but also is arguing in support of the 75 percent offset.
Said Seeger in a statement on Monday: "We continue to work at the direction of the court and special master as they review the settlement agreement and rightfully ensure that all members of the class are protected. We look forward to finalizing this agreement so that former players can soon begin taking advantage of its benefits."
An NFL spokesman deferred to Seeger's statement for comment.
Molo said in the Monday filing the Seeger-endorsed settlement proposal makes no mention of the Toradol issue "except to release [extinguish] any claims for them and inexplicably select it as a basis for reducing retired players' compensation."
The 75 percent offset for a single stroke, the players say in their court filing, is "devoid of scientific justification and grossly unfair."
The players are asking Brody to grant them status as "plaintiff-intervenors," a classification that would allow them to participate in any further settlement discussions. They must be allowed to intervene in the negotiations and the litigation, these players say, because no one is "protecting the interests and views of retired players whose demonstrable injuries go uncompensated in the settlement [proposal]."
The players filing in court on Monday include Sean Morey, a special teams player who played nine season for four teams; Alan Faneca, an offense lineman for the Pittsburgh Steelers who was selected for nine Pro Bowls; Ben Hamilton, an offensive lineman for the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks; Robert Royal, a tight end who played nine seasons with three teams; Rock Cartwright, a fullback and kick returner who played 10 seasons with the Washington Redskins and the Los Angeles Raiders; Jeff Rohrer, a linebacker who played seven seasons with the Dallas Cowboys; and, Sean Considine, a safety who played eight seasons with four teams.