September 11, 2023
A recent Law 360 story by PJ D’Annunzio, “NFL Player’s 1st Firm Entitled to Half Contingency Fees”, reports that an Atlanta law firm representing an NFL player who eventually replaced it with another firm is entitled to half the original contingency fee agreed to from the outset of the litigation, a Pennsylvania federal judge has ruled. U.S. Magistrate Judge David R. Strawbridge held that the player, identified as R.B., will have to pay Pope McGlamry PC a 10% contingency fee while paying his current firm, Collins & Truett, the remainder of the funds withheld for attorney fees. Dollar amounts were not listed in the opinion.
Judge Strawbridge relied on the Third Circuit's ruling in McKenzie Construction v. Maynard to determine the reasonableness of the contingency fee agreement between R.B. and Pope McGlamry, with factors including the quality of the work done and the result obtained. The firm, which represented R.B. from 2011 to 2016, did not represent him when he became eligible to participate in the NFL concussion settlement claims process in 2022. However, Judge Strawbridge said he was in a position to participate in that settlement program because of the work done by the firm.
Judge Strawbridge was skeptical of R.B.'s claim that Pope McGlamry did not adequately represent him before 2016. "We view these assertions with some suspicion, as Pope McGlamry provided substantiation for its observation that player's withdrawal was part of a wave of such changes in representation by [settlement class members] as other firms offered more competitive fees," Judge Strawbridge said.
The judge said Pope McGlamry reviewed R.B.'s medical records, filed a complaint on his behalf, kept him updated on litigation and eventual settlement discussions, and counseled him about opting in to the settlement. But Judge Strawbridge said he also needed to consider the impact of the representation, noting that because it was terminated, Pope McGlamry was not in a position to register R.B. for the settlement program and set up the necessary medical testing to determine the amount of his compensation.
All that, the judge said, "occurred during a time that he was represented by neither firm. Collins & Truett then carried the case to a conclusion in 2022 when it filed player's claim and saw him past the appeal period and into what we presume has been a distribution of his award." Judge Strawbridge said the combined efforts of both firms were worth 15% of R.B.'s recovery.