Junior Seau's family wants answers, not just a decision.
USA Today is reporting that the Seau family is not happy with the settlement between the NFL and thousands of former NFL players. Therefore, the Seau family will continue with their lawsuit they filed against the NFL in January of 2013. Earlier in that month, researchers at the National Institute of Health had examined Seau's brain and found he had chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a brain disease associated with blows to the head and can lead to dementia and depression.
The Seau family's lawsuit alleges that the NFL knew that their players were not properly protected from concussions, nor were they properly treated when the players suffered concussions. "The family want to know why this settlement seems designed for expediency for the NFL and to ensure that information doesn't come out," Seau lawyer Steven 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."
ESPN is reporting that this is a significant blow to the NFL. The league was hoping the settlement would put the concussion issue behind them. It also puts a spotlight on one of the NFL's most popular players, Seau, who is eligible for enshrinement into the Hall Of Fame in 2015. Seau played 20 years for the San Diego Chargers, Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots.
"The family want to know why this settlement seems designed for expediency for the NFL and to ensure that information doesn't come out," said Seau lawyer Steven Strauss, a partner in the firm Cooley LLP. "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 original settlement, approved by a federal judge in July, called for former players to undergo testing under a complicated system to measure the neurocognitive impairment the player suffered due to CTE or ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig's disease), and would then be awarded compensation. The initial settlement award of $765 million was deemed an inferior amount. The amount is now unlimited.
Seau's family is opting out of the original statement because they feel it does not adequately address the needs of former player's descendants. 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 settlement, those players found to have CTE or ALS would receive $4 million. Seau would have qualified for that amount.
Chris Seeger, a lawyer who helped to negotiate the settlement for the players, said those who opt out face numerous legal hurdles, but also forfeit compensation and medical attention offered by the settlement.
"If Mr. Strauss believes the $4 million his client is eligible for under the settlement is insufficient, he can choose to permanently forfeit these benefits and face all the significant risks associated with continued litigation," Seeger, a partner at Seeger Weiss LLP, said in a statement. "We would advise any class member against opting out of this agreement, considering the tremendous guaranteed benefits it provides."
Seau committed suicide at the age of 43. Seau shot himself in the chest with a.357 Magnum revolver. Friends and family noticed a definite change in Seau's behavior and demeanor, from loving father and successful businessman to struggling with finances, gambled extensively and disconnected from his children.
While Seau's family may face an uphill battle, the NFL is not that much easier off. Seau's decline is well-known and documented. Seau also played at a time when then-commissioner Paul Tagliabue formed a research team for the NFL, and decreed that there was no correlation between concussions and possible brain damage.