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Supreme Court rejects former players’ challenge to $1 billion NFL concussion settlement

WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court has rejected challenges to the estimated $1 billion plan by the NFL to settle thousands of concussion lawsuits filed by former players.

The lawsuits accused the league of hiding what it knew about concussion risks. The NFL denies the claims.

The court’s action on Monday clears the way for payouts to begin to former players who have been diagnosed brain injuries linked to repeated concussions.

The settlement covers more than 20,000 NFL retirees for the next 65 years. The league estimates that 6,000 former players, or nearly three in 10, could develop Alzheimer’s disease or moderate dementia.

Players could receive up to $5 million each in the case of severe brain trauma.

Some former players and relatives of players who have died objected to the settlement.

Under previously negotiated terms, a younger retiree with Lou Gehrig’s disease would get $5 million, those with serious dementia cases would get $3 million and an 80-year-old with early dementia would get $25,000. Retirees without symptoms would get baseline screening, and follow-up care if needed.

In January of 2014, a federal judge nixed a preliminary approval of a $765 million settlement, saying it was not enough to cover everyone affected.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit included at least 10 members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, including former Dallas Cowboys running back Tony Dorsett. They also include Super Bowl-winning quarterback Jim McMahon and the family of Pro Bowl linebacker Junior Seau, who committed suicide last year. The lead plaintiff, Ray Easterling, filed the first suit in Philadelphia in August 2011 but later committed suicide.