PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The federal judge overseeing the $1 billion NFL concussion settlement has terminated three of four lawyers serving as class counsel.

The surprise order Friday comes weeks after a hearing to air complaints about new rules that limit the doctors who can evaluate retired players for dementia and other brain injuries linked to concussions.

Senior U.S. District Judge Anita Brody says the rules were needed to thwart fraud alleged by the NFL as the more than $1 billion settlement is disbursed.

She has named New York lawyer Christopher Seeger as the only attorney left who can litigate on behalf of the 20,000-member class.

Outgoing class counsel Gene Locks tells The Associated Press the ruling "extinguishes any remaining hope" that clients will be protected as they move through the contentious medical testing and award process.

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