The NHL has reached a tentative settlement in the concussion lawsuit that has been hanging over its head since it was first filed in 2016. The lawsuit alleges that the NHL did not warn players about the true dangers of concussions, and did not prevent or treat them adequately.
Nearly 150 players signed the initial litigation, with more retaining counsel as the lawsuit progressed, bringing the total amount of former players involved to 318.
Confidential documents received by Forbes show that the total amount would be $18.9 million, with $6.9 million going to the individual plaintiffs. The players would receive just $22,000 per person.
The NHL’s press release states that the league “does not acknowledge any liability for any of Plaintiffs’ claims in these cases. However, the parties agree that the settlement is a fair and reasonable resolution and that it is in the parties’ respective best interests to receive the benefits of the settlement and to avoid the burden, risk and expense of further litigation.”
The NHL released this announcement the morning of Monday, November 12. The Hall of Fame ceremony–at which NHL commissioner Gary Bettman will be inducted–is Monday night. The timing could potentially draw attention away from the concussion discussion.
How to avoid attention and uncomfortable questions about the NHL concussion lawsuit settlement: announce a formal settlement via a press release the morning of the hockey hall of fame ceremonies.
— Rick Westhead (@rwesthead) November 12, 2018
Bettman’s stance has been that there is insufficient evidence that concussions and brain injury are connected. “From a medical and scientific standpoint,” Bettman said in 2015, “there is no evidence yet that one leads to the other.”
The settlement does not admit to any fault in how the NHL has handled concussion treatment, prevention, or education. Pete Blackburn summarizes the NHL’s stance as “It’s not our fault but we’ll pay you to shut up and leave us alone.”
The lawyers for the plaintiffs recommend that the players accept the settlement. Speaking to the Associated Press, Stuart Davidson, one of the players’ attorneys, explained why he thinks this is a good compromise. “When you have a defendant who has spent millions of dollars litigating a case for four years to prove that nothing is wrong with getting your brain bashed in, you can only get so far,” Davidson said. “[B]efore they get anything through a trial against the NHL it’s going to cost millions of dollars in experts to get there, and that’s going to have to be paid for before they see a penny from any recovery, assuming they win.”
Davidson said that one of the most important parts of the settlement agreements was the funds to help former players with medical testing and treatment. Players who are part of the settlement could be eligible for up to $75,000 individually.
The league would also establish a $2.5 million dollar “Common Good Fund” that would be available to all former players in need, even ones who are not part of the settlement.
However, former player and two-time Stanley Cup Champion Dan Carcillo is recommending that players do not accept the settlement. Since his retirement from the league, Carcillo has become an advocate raising awareness about concussions, mental health, and traumatic brain injuries.
“To all former players, do not accept this settlement for the concussion lawsuit,” Carcillo tweeted. He notes that, while players could receive funds for medical testing and treatment, they would “be forced to be seen by the same #NHL & @NHLPA doctors to determine if [they are] eligible for treatment.”
The plaintiffs will have 75 days to decide whether or not to sign off on the settlement. The NHL won’t comment further until that time has been completed.
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