The NFL is accused of intentionally obfuscating the payout process of a class-action settlement with former players who filed medical claims related to concussions.
In total, 1,713 claims were made and 1,113 of those involved dementia. But according to one of several filings made by the players’ attorneys, the league has paid out only six of those claims so far after originally projecting 430 dementia claims would be paid out by this time.
According to Monday’s filing, the NFL’s own projections had the league paying out $72.3 million over 430 dementia claims in the first year of the deal.
The latest filing, submitted Tuesday, claims the settlement payouts are ‘failing to provide a fraction of what the NFL promised,’ adding that the league ‘will argue virtually anything to evade payments.’
The payments are handled by Richmond-based BrownGreer, an independent court-appointed firm. In spite of that, attorney Gene Locks wrote that the ‘NFL seeks to rig the Settlement system.’
The NFL disputes these claims.
‘The notion the NFL is throwing sand in the gears and trying to block and obstruct, nothing can be further from the truth,’ a league official told The Chicago Tribune.
The lawsuit, which included plaintiffs such as former Philadelphia Eagles fullback Kevin Turner and former Miami Dolphins safety Shawn Wooden, was settled on January 17, 2017 and was expected to cost the NFL around $1 billion.
BrownGreer founder Orran Brown told the Tribune that the NFL has no role in the payout process and explained that several procedural issues are to blame for the delay.
However, the NFL can appeal the rulings, and the players are claiming that it’s those arguments that have muddled the payout process.
Former New England Patriots cornerback Ronnie Lippett’s Alzheimer’s claim was denied in December. The 57-year-old was told his dementia might be caused by sleep apnea or depression.
Lippett is now convinced he does have dementia, but he’s struggling to appeal the ruling because the neuropsychologist who diagnosed him is reportedly under audit
‘I stopped using my sleep apnea mask because I was scared,’ he told the Tribune. ‘Is this the cause of it or what?’
Lippett is now convinced he does have dementia, but he’s struggling to appeal the ruling because the neuropsychologist who diagnosed him is reportedly under audit.
‘My family is scared right now,’ Tippett said.
‘To me, it’s pretty obvious that it’s a numbers game,’ said Liz Nicholson, wife of former Cleveland Browns offensive lineman Gerry Sullivan. ‘They’re saying, ‘Okay, we’ve got to pay out the ALS cases, we’ve got to pay Parkinson’s. But where we can really fudge things are the dementia cases’ – which is the bulk of the claims.’
In another case, a 41-year-old player who is said to have had a decade-long history of neurodegenerative decline – including multiple positive psychological tests and even one from the New York Giants’ neuropsychologist – was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s Disease.
However, the NFL was able to win an appeal, allegedly, because of some questionable evidence.
‘On the last day before the award was to be accepted for check-writing, the NFL demanded an audit,’ Tuesday’s filing read. ‘Its basis was a three-minute videotape of the player speaking publicly four years earlier. The NFL alleged that the three-minute video was anecdotal evidence of something improper. Notwithstanding overwhelming objective evidence to support he diagnosis, the the NFL accused the MAF physician, multiple neurologists, the PET scanning service, the radiologist, the player, and the player’s family of fraud.
WHY THE NFL’S CONCUSSION FOCUS IS A PROBLEM FOR PLAYERS
by Alex Raskin, Sports News Editor
A class action settlement brought against the league by over 20,000 retired players affected by concussions resulted in the NFL being forced to dole out $1 billion of payments over the next 65 years. On average, each player will receive about $190,000, while individuals can receive up to $5 million depending on the degree of the injuries sustained as well as the number of years they played in the NFL.
But while the settlement awards up to $4 million for past CTE deaths, it can’t do anything for players living with CTE because the disease cannot be diagnosed in the living.
That’s a problem because players can be suffering from CTE without a long history of concussions.
Deceased Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, for instance, had only one official concussion during his time in the NFL but was still posthumously diagnosed with a severe case of the CTE by Boston University’s CTE Center.
The situation is particularly problematic for players such as offensive lineman, who experience thousands of sub-concussive hits per season without ever officially registering a concussion.
A year ago, the U.S. Supreme Court denied challenges to the settlement, which means for now, the families of players who suffered from CTE may have trouble collecting any payments unless there are documented cases of concussions.
That doesn’t mean CTE will never be recognized as part of the settlement, but until it can be scientifically diagnosed in the living, the league won’t be able to compensate those enduring the disease on a day-to-day basis.
‘Clearly the NFL is scouring the internet and social media sites to find isolated out-of-context moments of lucid behavior by a player (in this case, four years earlier) to drum up doubt…’
In total, 183 players have received at least a portion of a settlement, totaling $150 million.
The NFL projected a total of 665 claims amounting to $243 million in payouts in the first year.
There have been another 143 claims approved that have yet to be paid out and those total $198 million. Some of those can been subject to appeal, however.
‘We are exceeding expectations in every respect except for one, and that’s dementia,’ co-lead counsel Christopher Seeger told the Tribune. ‘The only reason we’re not – and we’re starting to catch up – is because the court-appointed claims administrator had identified hundreds of suspicious claims. I think we have now worked through a lot of that and we’re back on track.’
‘Ninety-four percent of the claims rewards have not been challenged on appeal,’ said the league official told the Tribune. ‘In the overwhelming bulk of the awards made so far, the NFL has not filed an appeal. I just don’t think the statistics lie and there’s certainly been an emphasis on the few disappointed players and their representatives to try to suggest something – mainly that the league is obstructing the settlement process – when the actual facts are completely the opposite.’
Former New York Jets defensive defensive end Mark Gastineau recently sobbed live on radio as he described losing control of his mind and body to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
The 61-year-old, who spent a decade in the NFL, said he is certain football destroyed his life as he now battles neurodegenerative diseases with clear links to repetitive head trauma.
Gastineau insisted he doesn’t care about the money, all he wants is for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell – who was an intern when they met more than 30 years ago – to treat him with respect and acknowledge that football led to his degradation.
‘It’s not right and I haven’t been that way all my life,’ Gastineau told Pete McCarthy on WOR Sports Zone on Thursday.
‘I wasn’t the smartest little cookie in school. But you know what… I wasn’t that way.’