Former NFL Players Object to Class Attorneys’ Fees from the Concussion Settlement Fund

The former NFL players and their families seeking to recover from an uncapped NFL concussion litigation have objected to an additional five percent set-aside sought by the class attorneys on the case.

As previously reported, in April 2015, the NFL entered into a settlement agreement with almost 22,000 former players, which established a 65-year span to compensate the class members. The deal offers payments ranging from $1.5 million to $5 million for each player, or the player’s estate, who suffered from a serious degenerative condition in connection with a traumatic brain injury, including Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and dementia.

The lead law firms on the case, Seeger Weiss and Anapol Weiss, filed a petition for attorneys’ fees in the amount of $112.5 million for common benefit work. Notably, the firms now seek an additional five percent set-aside for future administration of the concussion settlement fund. While the firms stated that this is only about nine percent of the deal’s total value — which could payout over $1 billion — the former players filed three objections to the firms’ proposal of the additional five percent.

The objections argued that the set-aside, if granted, will grant the firms an additional $47.5 million, and that the set-aside is premature, since the firms are seeking a set-aside amount for work they may have to provide at a later point, and that they should petition for a set-aside if, and when, the time comes.

One objection, filed on behalf of over 150 class members, maintained that the class counsel should be limited to a proposal that would cover the costs incurred for the common benefit. This, according to the objection, requires court approval and could be levied by a set-aside of up to five percent. However, “[r]ather than present the attorney fees which are or will be incurred, class counsel has simply elected to misinterpret this requirement to mean an arbitrary percentage tax of each monetary award to be imposed on the class, without any reference to any quantity of the number of hours or billable rates for any attorney fees.”

Also, another objection filed on behalf of the families of Wally Hilgenberg and Peter Duranko, two deceased NFL players, contended that not only is Anapol Weiss enforcing a 35 percent contingency fee agreement with the deceased players’ estates, they are now seeking an additional five percent set-aside. Thus, according to the objection, Hilgenberg’s estate, which will receive $2.8 million, and Duranko’s estate, which will receive $3.5 million, will both decline by $2.205 million from the $112.5 million fee amount already awarded, plus an additional amount if the set-aside is granted.

If the counsels’ request is granted, not only will the class attorneys on the case share in the $112.5 million attorney’s fees, but also, will receive an extra five percent set-aside fund for costs not yet proven, and thus, will continue to take away from the amount that the players will receive.

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