For years, debilitated former football players and their loved ones had hoped that the 2017 National Football League’s concussion agreement to pay out more than $1 billion in a settlement for victims that endured serious brain injuries would gain closure for their suffering. The funds were supposed to help cover past medical costs and enhance the injured ex-player’s quality of life. Unfortunately, the process was not as clear-cut as they had imagined as the NFL showed unwillingness to payout fair compensation.
The National Football League Players Association sued the National Football League and NFL Properties claiming that retired players received head injuries while playing that resulted in or may cause future life-long neurological problems, such as A.L.S., Parkinson’s, Alzheimer's disease, and Dementia. The plaintiffs accused the NFL of having substantial evidence of the risks correlated with repetitive concussions and traumatic brain injuries but chose to neglect to warn the players of the potential repercussions.
On January 7, 2017, the $1 billion concussion settlement was finalized, and impaired ex-players were able to file claims in hopes of securing fair compensation for their injuries sustained during their football careers. The NFL states that all valid claims under the settlement will be paid in full throughout the 65-year-life of the Settlement Program for as much as $5 million for the most serious of cases. Although collecting payment has shown to be more difficult than expected with repeated payout deductions and appealed and denied cases.
Meyers & Flowers partners Ryan P. Theriault and Peter J. Flowers were contacted by numerous former football players and their families. The victims wanted assistance claiming their rightful compensation.
“The NFL needs to step up and pay the claims of these players that have documented injuries by independent physicians. While the NFL certainly has buyer’s remorse over the settlement, our clients have real and life altering injuries – all as the result of their service to the league. The league has made billions over the years – the least they can do is take care of those with medical needs, the same people off of whom they profited,” Theriault said.
Unfortunately, the process has played out unfairly with merely 5% of eligible retirees suffering brain disorders involved in the suit having received payment for their claim. The case has also been met with intentional obstacles and hurdles, such as exam delays, fraud accusations and a lack of transparency since players began filing claims four years ago.
But the newest and most concerning of the case’s criticisms is the NFL’s systemic discrimination in determining one’s eligibility for dementia-related claims. The NFL concussion litigation encourages specialists to use different benchmark standards for Black and White former players making it more difficult for Black players to qualify for injury compensation as they must demonstrate more significant cognitive decline that their white teammates.
“The latest allegations regarding racial bias in the administration of the NFL concussion settlement are particularly troubling. This is yet another example of the systemic racism that needs to be eradicated. Simply – black players should not have to reach a higher benchmark than their white counterparts. The notion that they are not equal in some way is appalling,” Flowers added.
For several years, both Mr. Theriault and Mr. Flowers have worked closely with the victims and will continue to fight for them until they are awarded the just and fair payment they deserve after dedicating years to an organization that ultimately betrayed them.