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NFL Concussion Settlement Gets Preliminary Approval

The judge could give final approval after a fairness hearing in November.

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U.S. District Judge Anita Brody has given her tentative nod to a settlement covering some 5,000 former professional football players who allege that the league concealed the risks of head injuries.

Preliminary approval of the deal follows the federal judge's rejection last year of a $765 million settlement. At the time, despite the sides believing that the amount would be enough, the judge expressed her concern that it might be inadequate to cover those who qualified for payments.

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After the scuttling of that deal, the parties got together and hashed out a new arrangement that, most significantly, puts no cap on payments. Money would be headed to a trust with the NFL given the right to audit any claims.

"This is an extraordinary settlement for retired NFL players and their families — from those who suffer with neurocognitive illnesses today, to those who are currently healthy but fear they may develop symptoms decades into the future," said Christopher Seeger and Sol Weiss, co-lead counsels for the retired NFL player plaintiffs. "We have received overwhelming support from the retired player community as they learn more about the guaranteed benefits and long-term security this settlement provides, and we look forward to soon finalizing this agreement."

At least a few players objected.

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For instance, seven retirees submitted their opposition to the settlement, arguing it would lead to "a procedural labyrinth designed to limit the number and amount of settlement payouts." These players were also critical of $122.5 million in fees going to lawyers, and that a settlement happened "without [the lawyers] taking a single deposition and without the NFL producing a single document."

The settlement isn't 100 percent final. Judge Brody has scheduled a fairness hearing for Nov. 19 right in the middle of the regular season. There also figures to be more concussion-related lawsuits coming against amateur sports leagues as well.

Email: Eriq.Gardner@THR.com
Twitter: @eriqgardner