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Concerns Over Attorney Fees in NFL Concussion Settlement

December 20, 2013 | Posted in : Ethics & Professional Responsibility, Expenses / Costs, Fee Agreement

When the NFL announced the concussion settlement in August, the former players assured the league that no part of the $765 million settlement was for lawyers.  Plaintiffs’ lawyers were to be paid from a separate fund, to cover attorney fees and expenses.  But, according to documents and emails obtained by ESPN’s “Outside the Lines,” some plaintiffs’ lawyers have separate fee arrangements with former players.

Lead plaintiffs’ lawyer, Christopher Seeger of Seeger Weiss in New York, tried to arrange an agreement to receive a 10 percent cut of any money awarded to a 79-year-old former NFL player, Billy Kinard.  Seeger quickly withdrew the proposal after the player’s attorney challenged it by calling the fee agreement “most troubling.”

In a statement provided to “Outside the Lines,” Seeger wrote: “Seeger Weiss is not representing any new plaintiffs, from when the settlement was announced on Aug. 29, on a fee arrangement.  A small number of plaintiffs were mistakenly offered a retainer agreement after approaching Seeger Weiss for representation post-announcement.  After learning of this error, we notified these plaintiffs and agreed to continue representing them for no fee.”

It is unclear how many lawyers could be engaged in “double-dipping” and how many former players might have a separate fee arrangement.  In some cases, those fee agreements call for the players to pay as much as one-third of any money they recover to their attorneys.

In response to this double-dipping, U.S. District Judge Anita Brody has appointed special fee master Perry Golkin to assist her in evaluating the “financial aspects” of the proposed settlement.  She said the “appointment is warranted by the expected financial complexity of the proposed settlement.”

NALFA also reported on this case in “Attorney Fees To Be Determined in NFL Concussion Settlement.”  For more on this settlement, visit http://nflconcussionlitigation.com/