Special Masters Ruling on “Eligible Seasons” is another win for former players in the NFL Concussion Settlement

By Jeff Nixon
Dec. 18, 2017

As most of you know, the NFL Concussion Settlement monetary awards are based on three key factors: Your diagnosis; Your age at the time of diagnoses and the number of years (eligible seasons) you played in the NFL.

There are a few other factors that can also affect the size of an award, but those are the three key factors that will affect all monetary awards for class members.

Our lawyers for the NFL Concussion Settlement (Chris Seeger and Sol Weiss) and the lawyers for the NFL recently disagreed on the definition of an “Eligible Season “and per the rules of the Settlement Agreement, they submitted their arguments to the Special Master.

Before I get to the ruling, it is important to note that the Settlement Agreement defines “Eligible Seasons,” granting a Player a full Eligible Season if he was:

· On a Club’s Active List “on the date of three (3) or more regular season or postseason games,” or

· On a Club’s Active List “on the date of one (1) or more regular season or postseason games, and then spent at least two (2) regular season or postseason games on [the Club’s] injured reserve list or Inactive List due to a concussion or head injury.”

The NFL lawyers and our lawyers disagreed on what it meant to be on the “Active List,” but there was no dispute that the Players who were placed on the Inactive List on game day often practiced the entire week leading up to the game.

The NFL tried to argue that a player who was placed on a Club’s Inactive list on the day of a game would not be considered active and therefore should not get credit for that game.

Our lawyers argued that the “letter and spirit” of the Settlement Agreement would be violated and lead to an “absurd result.” Retired Players who practiced for the entire week leading up to a game – sustaining hits in the process – before being placed on the Inactive List 90 minutes prior to game time would not accrue any games toward an Eligible Season, but non-roster practice and developmental squad members would accrue games toward half an Eligible Season.

So, the question before the Special Master was whether a Player who was assigned to the Inactive List ninety minutes before kickoff qualifies as someone who was on the Active List “on the date of” the game for the purpose of accruing Eligible Seasons.

The Special Master ruled in favor of our lawyers stating “The Special Master holds that the plain meaning of the terms of the Agreement is evident: Retired NFL Players who were on the Active List on the calendar day of their Club’s particular regular season or postseason game shall receive credit toward that game for the purposes of calculating an Eligible Season, even when the Player was placed on the Inactive or Injured Reserve Lists prior to the start of a game.”

The ruling is quite lengthy, but you can read the entire order here.

This is an important ruling because monetary awards are subject to downward adjustments for retired players who accrued less than five “Eligible Seasons” in the NFL. The fewer eligible seasons a player accrued, the steeper the reduction of the Monetary Award. For example, an award for a player with 4.5 Eligible seasons is reduced by 10% and the award for a player with 4 eligible seasons is reduced by 20%, and so forth.

For a player receiving a one million dollar award, a 20% reduction would reduce his award by $200,000!

The ruling will increase monetary awards for a number of players and may even make more players eligible for Settlement benefits. This ruling will give them access to the Baseline Assessment Program, MAF doctors and the ability to submit claims and receive monetary awards. They could also become eligible for free prescriptions and treatment.

The Special Masters have ruled “In the Spirit of the Agreement” and in doing so they have helped Christmas come early for some of our NFL alumni brothers.