U.S. District Judge Anita Brody's preliminary ruling Wednesday follows a similar ruling in January on the proposed $765 million umbrella settlement. She is skeptical that the fund is large enough to cover up to 20,000 players for 65 years, as intended.
Brody's latest ruling involves a group of plaintiffs led by Kevin Turner, a former Philadelphia Eagle now battling Lou Gehrig's disease. The judge also denied the Turner group class-action status, at least for now.
Attorney Sol Weiss, representing the players, insists the deal is fair and sufficient to cover their needs. Weiss says he believes most players will sign on rather than spend years fighting the NFL in court.
The surprise settlement emerged last summer, after several months of closed-door meetings with a mediator.
Young players with severe brain injuries would get up to $5 million under the deal, though most players would get far less. Those without neurological problems would get medical screening, and follow-up care if needed.
The awards would depend on a retiree's age and diagnosis. For instance, young men with serious dementia would get $3 million, while an 80-year-old with early dementia would get $25,000.
But in January, Brody wrote: "Even if only 10 percent of retired NFL football players eventually receive a qualifying diagnosis ... it is difficult to see how the monetary award fund would have the funds available over its lifespan to pay all claimants at these significant award levels."
At the time, she also asked for more actuarial details and appointed a finance expert to assist her.