Nearly 20 attorneys and firms involved in the NFL concussion litigation are challenging a lead attorney’s proposal for divying up $112 million in attorney fees, which had allocated the lion’s share to his firm.
According to court filings, 16 firms and one former member of the plaintiff’s steering committee have filed objections to the proposal that Christopher Seeger submitted to the court in mid-October. That proposal had included more than $70 million for his firm, Seeger Weiss.
Among the firms that submitted objections to the proposal are Anapol Weiss, home to Sol Weiss, who is co-lead counsel with Seeger in the litigation.
Anapol’s response proposed an alternative methodology for the court to use in dividing up the fees. The suggested formula would not rely as heavily on lodestar multipliers and would accounted for hours spent working toward significant benchmarks in the litigation, rather than applying a “straight-line mathematical computation” that treated all hours equally, the filing said.
The 15-page alternative proposal, which was filed by Pietragallo Gordon Alfano Bosick & Raspanti attorney Gaetan Alfano, said it would more adequately account for Anapol’s role in developing the litigation and hammering out the settlement agreement.
“While Seeger and Anapol shared the role of co-lead class counsel, the Seeger firm’s proposed apportionment would leave one co-lead class counsel firm (Seeger) with 65.4 percent of the attorneys’ fees and the other (Anapol) with 4.3 percent of the attorneys’ fees,” the filing said in a footnote. “The Seeger firm requests that this court award it over 15 times the fees that it allocated to its co-lead counsel, Anapol. On its face, Mr. Seeger’s proposed apportionment is grossly inequitable, given, inter alia, Anapol’s extensive contributions to the case.”
In an emailed statement to the press, Seeger said, “We believe this allocation is reasonable and well within the precedent set in similar cases. Judge [Anita] Brody will ultimately determine the final allocation, and we appreciate her consideration of this matter.”
Alfano declined to immediately comment Monday without first speaking with his client.
On Oct. 10, Seeger filed a 22-page declaration to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, asking the court to award his firm $70.4 million. The money, according to the request, would compensate Seeger Weiss for a total of 21,044 hours that his firm spent on the litigation since he was appointed to represent the class in 2012.
Although many of the responses took issue with the lodestar multipliers Seeger used to develop his proposal, some contended that a neutral special master needed to be appointed to handle the fees and others said the proposal was premature.
“To avoid even the appearance of placing their own financial interests ahead of the retired NFL players’ needs, class counsel is urged to join this motion and voluntarily seek to defer any ruling on payment of claimed attorneys’ fees until after at least the majority of the players have been paid,” Tampa-based attorney Steven Yerrid of the Yerrid Law Firm said in his firm’s response. “With all respect, the undersigned submits this case must first be about the players’ well-deserved compensation and not the compensation of the lawyers representing them.”
Yerrid did not return a call seeking comment.
Max Mitchell can be contacted at 215-557-2354 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @MMitchellTLI.