By Daniel Kelley
PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - Lawyers for the NFL and a class of retired players defended a proposed multimillion-dollar settlement for concussions sustained while playing the game during a hearing on Wednesday.
Most of the 20,000 former players involved in the class-action lawsuit back the deal, which provides payments of up to $5 million to those with the most serious neurological impairments.
U.S. District Judge Anita Brody, who granted preliminary approval to the deal in June after the NFL agreed to remove a $675 million cap on payments, presided over the hearing and will decide if the settlement is fair.
She is expected to make her final decision at a later date.
Brad Karp, a lawyer representing the NFL, said the settlement provides prompt payments to players while avoiding costly litigation that could last years and might leave players empty handed.
"The league could have fought these claims, in my view, for many, many years," Karp said.
The deal has its critics, in part, over how it treats players with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, one of the most common neurological disorders suffered by football players.
The proposed settlement calls for the NFL to pay $4 million to the families of those who died from CTE before July 7, 2014, while those diagnosed afterward would receive nothing.
Chris Seeger, the lead lawyer for players, said objections based on CTE compensation have been misleading.
The settlement "compensates the injuries associated with CTE," he said. "CTE is not diagnosable in living people. It compensates the most serious neurocognitive impairments associated with TBI (traumatic brain injury)."
Seeger said the settlement "maybe isn't perfect but it is really good and clearly fair."
(Reporting by Steve Ginsburg; Editing by Will Dunham and Bill Trott)