Junior Seau's 2012 suicide made him the face of the NFL's concussion crisis. Now, his family has decided to opt out of the NFL's proposed concussion settlement, a move that could alter the settlement's dynamic.
As reported by ESPN's "Outside the Lines," the Seau family will instead continue to pursue a wrongful-death lawsuit filed in January 2013. Seau, a 20-year NFL veteran and one of the most popular players in the league's history, was found to have chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in his brain in autopsies. The Seau family contends the NFL willfully hid the dangers of CTE from 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," Seau family attorney Steven Strauss told ESPN. "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 has received preliminary approval. The federal judge overseeing the settlement had said that the initial $765 million fund may not be sufficient to cover the potential total of players filing a claim, and in response, the settlement fund is now unlimited.
However, the varied concerns and questions about the players in the settlement have caused their attorneys to question both the entire arrangement and the lack of transparency in its construction. Seau's family hopes that their withdrawal from the settlement, and the questions they continue to raise, will force a re-examination of the entire settlement. Specifically, Seau's family is concerned about how the settlement addresses the needs of descendants of affected players, and how the NFL determined the "grid" of settlement amounts based on symptoms.
Seau killed himself with a gunshot to the chest in 2012. After his death, five different neuroscientists discovered signs of CTE in his brain.
Players have until October 14 to decide whether to opt out of the settlement.