Guest post by Roger Stone
With the kneeling controversy waning the NFL has seen its TV ratings rise and is experiencing record profits this year. However, there is another controversy involving the NFL, that has yet to capture much attention, and it is as sinister as they come. This is a story of backroom deals, corruption, money, and how the legal system is failing vulnerable brain damaged victims. All because the NFL is able to use its money and power to manipulate system.
The NFL and their co-conspirators are blatantly screwing brain injured retired NFL players, to keep the NFL’s billionaire owner’s pockets lined, while feigning compassion. All with the blessing of Senior Federal Judge of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, Anita Brody.
In January 2017, the NFL agreed to an uncapped settlement to compensate retired players for their traumatic brain injuries from repetitive hits to the head incurred while playing in the NFL. The NFL Concussion Class Action Lawsuit was finally settled and went into effect. The NFL’s liability is estimated to be between $1.5 and $2 billion. 88% of the injured players are African American. Less than 17 % of their claims have been honored. If a player making a claim dies his survivors are entitled to nothing !
An amazing thing happened last week, the NFL withdrew an appeal before Judge Brody in the NFL Concussion Settlement, yet got exactly what they wanted, without having to make an argument before the judge in an already scheduled hearing. One has to wonder how that happens? And it raises many questions about the underhanded dealings that have plagued this case from the beginning.
First some background on the settlement. There are two paths through the settlement, for brain injured retired players, to be diagnosed and receive a monetary award. One is known as the Baseline Assessment Program (BAP), the other is the Monetary Award Fund (MAF). The BAP path is paid for by the NFL, and has a strict protocol which must be followed to the letter, including a battery of required neuropsychological test. In this path, the patient will see two doctors that must agree on the diagnosis. On the MAF path a player can choose from a list of approved doctors and use his own funds or private insurance to pay for his own evaluation. On the MAF path the doctor examining the player only needs to be “generally consistent” with the BAP standard to render a diagnosis, and the plain language of the settlement states,
“For the avoidance of any doubt, the review of whether a Qualifying Diagnosis is based on principles generally consistent with the diagnostic criteria set forth in Exhibit 1 (Injury Definitions) does not require identical diagnostic criteria, including without limitation, the same testing protocols or documentation requirements.”
This means the board certified neurologist can practice medicine the way he does every day with his normal patients, like you and I, and not have to jump through the NFL’s negotiated hoops, to try and deny players their rightful benefit under the settlement.
Here is a good analogy, if you went to a doctor for fear you have cancer, a BAP path doctor would only give you the cancer diagnosis if you have stage 4 cancer, otherwise he would say you are not sick enough for a diagnosis. On the MAF path, the doctor could examine you and diagnosis you with stage 1, 2, or 3 cancer, give a diagnosis, and treat the disease.
You see, the older the player, when diagnosed, the less money the NFL has to payout under the settlement, so they are incentivized to delay payment as long as possible. They do not want players diagnosed early, when the disease is still treatable, that would cost them more money.
If at all, they want players diagnosed old and near death, so that Jerry Jones can buy a new yacht!
The MAF path was negotiated into the settlement because players would never have agreed to the settlement otherwise.
Prior benefit programs for injured players have such a poor payout rate the players would never have agreed to see only NFL doctors under this settlement. Sadly the rate of payout under this settlement is worse.
Now the NFL is trying to change the contract after it was already signed.
Last week Judge Brody had a hearing scheduled to hear arguments about the “generally consistent” standard, because the NFL filed and objection and stopped payment of some claims it deemed, not “generally consistent” with the BAP standard. Individual players’ attorneys filed motions and flew in from all over the country to try and be heard by the Judge. Curiously hours before the hearing the judge canceled the hearing, allegedly because the NFL withdrew their objection. But certainly a back room deal was cut. Then the judge issued an order directing the claims administrator, Brown Greer to clarify the rules governing MAF physicians making a “generally consistent” diagnosis. Why would a judge order any action taken on a withdrawn motion, unless a deal was cut? And why wasn’t that deal made in the sunshine of open court, as this Judge promised all future hearings would be?
What a slap in the face!
Essentially an 83 year old lifetime appointed judge that should have been retired 20 years ago, has ordered a law firm to tell Board Certified Doctors of Neurology how to practice medicine.
Individual players’ attorneys who were on the ground in Philadelphia to advocate for their clients were turned away. Is Judge Brody afraid to hear from these attorneys? Currently she has only heard from class counsel and counsel for the NFL, and never let any other individual plaintiff attorneys be heard, since the settlement went into effect.
Chris Seeger should be pounding the table that this is substantive change to the settlement, instead he is playing right along hand-in-hand with the NFL. This is not a surprise to many. Some of Chris Seeger’s individual clients, in this case fired him, and now refer to him as a “scumbag” because they believed he was too cozy with the NFL. After all, he did settle the case without taking a single deposition or receiving one document of discovery. Could 70+ million in already received fees and 5% of whatever is paid out in the settlement cause one to compromise their ethics.
You’ll have to ask Chris Seeger that question.
My question is how long will it be before the individual players’ attorneys get their bellies full and move to recuse this has been Judge?