Former NFL players are settling a malpractice action against class counsel at McKool Smith, according to court papers filed Monday.
Back in 2008, lawyers from McKool Smith helped Manatt, Phelps & Phillips represent the players in a $28 million settlement with the NFL Players Association over licensing and marketing revenue. The players later sued both firms in the Northern District of California, claiming that McKool Smith and Manatt blew the chance to win greater damages.
U.S. District Judge William Alsup said they should have objected before the case was settled and dismissed the suit in December 2010. The players appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Oral arguments were heard on April 18 and a ruling is pending.
On Monday, plaintiffs attorneys at Blecher & Collins and McKool Smith’s attorneys at Munger, Tolles & Olson filed a joint motion asking the appeals court to send the case back to district court "for the limited purpose of effectuating a classwide settlement, the terms of which have been agreed to by counsel for plaintiffs and McKool."
Details of the settlement were not made public. While McKool Smith denies any wrongdoing, it agreed to a settlement "to avoid further expense, inconvenience, uncertainties of litigation, and the distraction of burdensome and protracted litigation," according to the motion.
McKool Smith had approached the plaintiffs about settling the case, said Maxwell Blecher of Blecher & Collins. "We’re hopeful that we can do the same with Manatt and end the whole case," Blecher said. "But that remains to be seen," he said, and declined to say whether they’re in talks now. Manatt attorney Sean SeLegue at Arnold & Porter in San Francisco did not respond to requests for comment.
Hall of Famer Herb Adderley and Bernard Parrish originally sued the NFL and the NFL Players Association in 2007 on behalf of 2,000 other retired players, saying they had been cut out of licensing and market revenue in favor of current players.
The case went to trial before Alsup in 2008, who awarded the plaintiffs $28 million, including $21 million in punitive damages. The case was appealed and then settled for $26.25 million.
Manatt and McKool Smith asked Alsup for a 30 percent fee award, but he gave them only 20 percent. While he praised the firms’ work, he also said it did not justify premium fees because they failed to admit additional evidence that would have set the stage for a larger verdict. Parrish and the six class members later sued, saying that Manatt and McKool Smith should have won a larger verdict.
Amy Miller is a reporter for The Recorder, a Legal affiliate based in San Francisco. •