Family of former Chargers star Junior Seau rejects NFL concussion deal

By Curtis Skinner
New England Patriots' Junior Seau answers questions during media day for the National Football League's (NFL) Super Bowl XLII in Glendale, Arizona January 29, 2008. REUTERS/Jeff Topping

By Curtis Skinner

(Reuters) - Family members of former San Diego Chargers star Junior Seau, who killed himself in 2012, have rejected the recent settlement of a landmark concussions lawsuit brought against the National Football League, their attorney said on Wednesday.

A federal judge in Philadelphia gave preliminary approval in July to the deal, reached by the NFL and roughly 5,000 former players, but Seau's relatives chose to opt out because it treated wrongful death and personal injury claims the same, the lawyer said.

"The terms of the current settlement offer, including its failure to value wrongful death claims, suggest that the NFL is only interested in expediency, not a fair and transparent resolution," attorney Steve Strauss said in a statement.

A representative for the NFL declined to comment on the matter when reached by email.

Seau's children, ex-wife, and the trustee of his estate will continue to pursue their separate wrongful death suit against the league, which they filed in San Diego Superior Court last January, the statement said. Their case argued the league hid the dangers of concussions from players for decades.

Seau, named to the Pro Bowl 12 times over his two decades in the league, died in May 2012 after shooting himself in the chest at his beachfront home in Oceanside, California.

A study of Seau's brain revealed that he suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a debilitating brain condition caused by repeated jolts to the head that can lead to aggression and dementia.

Seau is among a handful of current or former NFL players who committed suicide in recent years. While their deaths could not be directly tied to the sport, violent or erratic behavior is consistent with symptoms of CTE.

Research linking collisions on the field to the disease has already prompted the NFL to make changes, including banning the most dangerous helmet-to-helmet contact and requiring teams to keep players who have taken hits to the head off the field if they show certain symptoms, including dizziness and memory gaps.

Roughly 20,000 former NFL players and their heirs affected by the concussions litigation, including the 5,000 athletes named as plaintiffs in the lawsuit, will get a chance to reject or accept the settlement terms at a hearing set for November. [ID:nL2N0PI1XG]

The judge previously rejected a proposed settlement that set a $675 million cap on the NFL's liability for payments to players under the settlement, saying it could fall short of the needed funds.

(Reporting by Curtis Skinner from San Francisco; Editing by Paul Tait and Toby Chopra)