April 24, 2015 / 8:36 AM / 4 years ago

Lawyer in NFL concussion deal says an appeal would be 'selfish'

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A major architect of the landmark concussion settlement reached with the National Football League on behalf of 20,000 retired players said on Thursday it would be “selfish” for anyone to appeal the deal.

Christopher Seeger, co-lead counsel for the retired NFL players, said if even one of the players involved in the settlement filed an appeal, benefits would probably be held up a year. An appeal would have to come from one or more of the around 200 players who filed objections to final approval.

U.S. District Judge Anita Brody on Wednesday approved the settlement of a lawsuit brought by the former players who accused the NFL of keeping secret the dangers of concussions.

However, the family of one prominent former NFL player has already signaled it will appeal the ruling on the grounds it excludes certain key brain injuries.

Seeger said appeals were unlikely to succeed because Brody, who has worked on the case since 2013 and twice sent it back to lawyers to be reworked, gave the deal the green light.

“Appeals, in my view, are just wasting the time of people who are very sick, like Kevin Turner,” Seeger said of the former NFL fullback who suffers from ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease.

“For a small group of guys to hold up the 99 percent that have accepted the deal, well, it would just be selfish.”

Still, Thomas Demetrio, an attorney for the family of former Chicago Bears Pro Bowler Dave Duerson who killed himself in 2011 and was found to have suffered a brain disease blamed on repeated concussions, told NBC Chicago the family would appeal.

The settlement plan doesn’t include future awards for chronic traumatic encephalopathy, which can only be diagnosed after death.

Concussions have been a hot-button issue in the NFL. The settlement allows for awards of up to $5 million per retired player for serious medical conditions associated with repeated head trauma.

The deal could cost the league, whose annual revenues are nearly $10 billion, about $1 billion over 65 years.

Attorney Jason Luckasevic, who represents about 550 players in the settlement, called the deal “bittersweet.”

“There’s so much more that could have and should have been done for these players who suffer serious and permanent cognitive and behavioral mental handicaps,” he said.

“How about the guys that [...] have days that are very dark and depressing because they are still living an independent life? They get nothing,” he said.

Dave Pear, 61, a Pro Bowl defensive lineman for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Super Bowl champion with the Oakland Raiders, called the settlement price tag “a nuisance fee” for the NFL.

Pear, who retired after the 1980 season, has had 13 surgeries on his spine and suffers from dementia, vertigo and memory loss. He will receive a share of the settlement but does not know how much.

“My recommendation to parents? Don’t ever let your kids play football,” he said.

(This version of the story clarifies who can file appeal in second paragraph)

Reporting by Steve Ginsburg; Editing by Peter Cooney

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