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Seau's family to reject concussion settlement

By By The Sports Xchange
Published On: Sep 03 2014 09:34:49 AM CDT
Updated On: Sep 03 2014 11:10:47 AM CDT
Junior Seau

Jeff Topping/Reuters

Former linebacker Junior Seau's family will reject a proposed NFL concussion settlement between the league and thousands of former players, according to a lawyer representing the family.

Seau, one of the league's most popular players who played 20 years in the NFL, committed suicide in 2012 that put the concussion crisis on the national agenda. Seau, who was 43, shot himself in the chest with a .357 Magnum revolver, following years in which his family and friends noticed marked changes in his behavior.

Seau family lawyer Steven Strauss, a partner in the firm Cooley LLP, was interviewed on ESPN's "Outside the Lines" on Tuesday night.

The decision to "opt out" means the Seaus will proceed with a wrongful death lawsuit they filed in January 2013. That suit alleges that the NFL concealed the dangers of football-related head trauma over a period of several years.

After his death, Seau was diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a neurodegenerative disease that has been found in dozens of deceased NFL players.

"The family want to know why this settlement seems designed for expediency for the NFL and to ensure that information doesn't come out," Strauss told "Outside the Lines." "And the Seau family wants the truth to come out. Since this litigation started, there hasn't been one document produced, there hasn't been one deposition taken. It seems very clearly designed to nip this in the bud and not have the truth come out, and that's not acceptable to the Seau family, and it's not acceptable to Junior's legacy."

The settlement received preliminary approval from a federal judge in June. The previous $765 million settlement was revised and payments to players will be uncapped. The deal calls for payments to former players who qualify under a complicated system that measures the level of neurocognitive impairment related to diseases such as ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease) and CTE.

The settlement came after U.S. District Judge Anita Brody in January questioned whether there would be enough money to cover as many as 20,000 retired players.

A revised settlement agreement filed in federal court in Philadelphia also eliminated a provision that barred anyone who gets concussion damages from the NFL from suing the NCAA or other amateur football leagues.

More than 4,500 former players have filed suit. They include former Dallas Cowboys running back Tony Dorsett and former Chicago Bears quarterback Jim McMahon, who suffers from dementia.

Strauss said the Seau family concluded that the deal does not address several concerns, including adequate compensation for the descendants of the former players. Seau's lawyers filed a previous motion objecting to the first proposed settlement and Strauss said the revised deal did nothing to address those issues.

Strauss said Seau's family, including his four children, is "not suing for his pain and suffering. They're suing for their own. This settlement doesn't address that."

Under the proposed settlement, relatives of some players found to have CTE qualify for compensation up to $4 million.

"Ideally, our opt out may cause others to consider that, and, in the ideal world, would cause the league and the plaintiffs' (lead attorneys) to perhaps re-examine the settlement so they come up with something that addresses the claims of all those in the (lawsuit) and not just the few," Strauss said.

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