A federal judge has rejected calls to appoint additional counsel to represent injured players seeking recovery under the NFL’s $1 billion concussion settlement.
Over the past month, more than 20 firms filed motions joining a request to have additional counsel appointed to oversee the settlement implementation process. The calls, led in large part by Locks Law Firm, came after several firms expressed frustration at the claims process, and at Seeger Weiss attorney Chris Seeger, who, in his role as co-lead class counsel in the litigation, is charged with overseeing the implementation of the settlement on behalf of the broad class of retired National Football League players.
U.S. District Judge Anita Brody of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, however, denied those requests Wednesday, saying she based her decision on, among other things, “the fine job Seeger Weiss has done” and Locks Law’s “role in facilitating third-party funding agreements to class members prohibited under the settlement agreement.”
“This undermines any claim by the Locks firm that it would be able to faithfully administer the agreement,” Brody said.
In late March, Gene Locks filed a motion saying the $1 billion settlement, which is expected to compensate 20,000 former NFL players who are suffering from neurological injuries, is “in danger of failing in its execution.” The motion further called for the appointment of administrative class counsel, which would provide a “structural protection against the NFL’s approach” and have “all the rights and duties of co-lead counsel Seeger Weiss.”
“The Seeger Weiss go-it-alone strategy has not worked,” Locks, who said his firm represents 1,100 registered ex-players, said. ”Seeger Weiss cannot satisfy these duties alone. It does not have the resources, the expertise, or the day-to-day incentives to engage in aggressive advocacy on behalf of players.”
The motion was joined by 21 other firms, including co-lead class counsel Anapol Weiss, although not all firms agreed that Locks Law should fill the proposed administrative counsel position.
Seeger responded last week, saying the claims process has been a success and that all of the issues raised by Locks had previously been addressed. He added that Locks was not suited for the proposed new leadership post, saying not only had he been removed as a settlement trustee in another case in 1989, but he also signed off on at least 28 funding agreements involving 16 of its clients.
“Many of the Locks’ motion’s complaints stem from the fact that, although he signed it, Locks has repeatedly ignored (or manifested an ignorance of) the settlement agreement,” Seeger said in his response.
The third-party funding agreements have been a contentious element in the settlement implementation.
Since the settlement agreement was approved, several litigation funders have entered into funding agreements with retired football players who are in the process of seeking money from the class action settlement. However, in December, Brody invalidated those agreements, and determined that the settlement language specifically forbids lenders from entering into loan agreements that require ex-players to assign over their monetary claims.
The funders are seeking to appeal.
Seeger said in an emailed statement that he was pleased with Brody’s order denying claims to appoint a settlement administrator.
“Our focus remains on holding the NFL accountable and making sure former players and their families receive every benefit they are entitled to under this agreement,” he said.
Locks did not immediately return a call seeking comment.