Lawyers representing thousands of former National Football League Players are calling on a federal judge to correct flaws in a protocol used by the League that prevents injured former players from receiving much needed medical benefits. One of lawyers, Peter Shahriari, called a settlement reached between the League and the players “broken” and “on the brink of collapse.”
Shahriari’s firm represents over 200 former players who claim they have been wrongly denied their money agreed to in a settlement with the League. He accuses the NFL of trying to evade their responsibility to injured players and of also hiding the real dangers of playing football. Shahriari is one of fifteen lawyers calling for a federal judge to oversee the case.
The NFL defended its actions. “We are ensuring that legitimate claims are processed and paid in a timely way to those individuals and families who deserve these benefits,’’ said spokesperson Brian McCarthy. “We believe that it is entirely appropriate to continue to oppose fraudulent and unsupported claims. No legitimate claim has been rejected.”
The team of lawyers representing the former players are calling for new leadership in the case and are pointing to the low numbers of paid former players as the reason. As of this year, 1731 players that have suffered head injuries after years of playing in the NFL have filed claims for compensation. Only 150 of them have actually received their payments.
The Boston Globe is reporting that over 350 former players have received initial approval for compensation, but that 200 of them have yet to be paid. An initial payment of $380 million has been approved to the 350 players. The slow pace of payouts is caused by various snags in the legal system, which include NFL appeals.
An even lower payout rate affects players claiming to suffer from dementia. Lawyers representing former players claim that of the 1,119 claims that have been filed on behalf of players with the condition, only six have had their compensation approved by the League. Payments to four other players are in progress and payments to eighty-eight others have been approved but are being delayed due to possible appeals.
“Sadly, the settlement is failing to provide a fraction of what the NFL promised,’’ attorney Gene Locks who heads the Locks Law Firm and represents about 1,110 former players wrote to the judge. “One year into implementation, the NFL has turned the settlement into a secret, privately litigated claim system that involves changing standards for claim packages, inconsistent and often improper standards of review, a black hole of audits, alleged deficiencies, anonymous opinions, denials, appeals, remands, and technical squabbles over what a valid diagnosis might be.”
McCarthy challenged that characterization by claiming the NFL has adhered to the rules of the settlement. He also pointed out that the settlement is actually being administered by a third-party law firm, the BrownGreer firm of Richmond, Va., and under court supervision.
Players’ Lawyers are calling on US District Judge Anita Brody to appoint the Locke Law firm as new administrative counsel. If Brody approves the request, she will have to decide if the law firm would then effectively replace the current administrative counsel, the firms of Seeger Weiss and Anapol Weiss.
Seeger Weiss has been criticized for its performance in the case. Players complain that they are not being aggressive enough in prosecuting the players’ claims. They also blame the firm for actions that have resulted in claims being stalled or denied. In a sign of existing conflict, Anapol Weiss has joined the players in calling for a new administrative counsel to address player complaints.