Four Florida law firms that banded together into a limited liability company are disputing attorney fees in nearly 200 cases that resolved under the National Football League’s settlement over concussion-related conditions.
The firms, which formed a professional limited liability company called Neurocognitive Football Lawyers PLLC, filed objections to attorney liens filed in 184 cases pending in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The objections, filed Tuesday, contend that the attorneys who filed the liens at issue do not currently represent the 184 former players, and those attorneys failed to properly file those liens with the court, or provide any material benefits to their former clients.
“The vast majority of the liens were asserted by former individual counsel who filed boilerplate lien notices with no detail, or with scant detail reflecting any beneficial service that may have been performed for each listed NFL player before the effective date of the settlement,” the objection, filed by Theodore “Ted” E. Karatinos of Holliday Karatinos Law Firm in Tampa, Florida, said. “While prior counsel may assert a quantum meruit lien after being discharged, most of the discharged counsel failed to prove that their legal services conferred substantial benefits to their clients, the former NFL players.”
Karatinos did not return a call for comment.
The filing lists Tampa law firms Gibbs & Parnell, Jeff Murphy Law, and The Yerrid Law Firm as the other three law firms making up the Neurocognitive Football Lawyers.
In 2013, the NFL agreed to settle the roughly 20,000-plaintiff multidistrict litigation for about $1 billion. Some players sought—and failed—to challenge the accord, and some opt-out plaintiffs were recently given permission to outline a new set of claims against a company that made football helmets.
In February, lead attorneys in the litigation also filed a request asking the court to award $112.5 million in legal fees. Since that time numerous attorneys have sought to score their piece of the potential fees.
The objection filed Tuesday was not the first time the Neurocognitive Football Lawyers have disputed with others over the fees. In March, the group asked the court to appoint a special master to look into the proposed fee agreements, and challenged the amount proposed be set aside for the lawyers.
The latest objection for the four firms focused on the argument that the prior counsel could not show the plaintiffs received any benefit from their former attorneys’ representation, and contended that some of the discharged firms did not register the player with the claims administrator.
“Sending emails and form letters to the former NFL players with updates on the progress of the concussion class action before the claims process opened constituted an immaterial legal service,” the objection said. “Where the former NFL player could simply Google the case website or secondary news source for updates on the progress of the case, legal services which merely updated the clients provide no ‘reasonable value.’”
When it comes to things like procuring medical records, the objecting firms said the discharged firms need to show proof that the information was collected and forwarded on to new counsel. However, in some cases, the objectors said, prior counsel ignored their requests for the players’ case files.
The objections also said that Pennsylvania law does not allow a discharged attorney to assert a lien on an unmatured contingency fee, and that many of the firms were unable to produce a fee agreement for the court to evaluate the claims.
The objection said this agreement would be particularly important since plaintiffs are alleged to suffer from traumatic brain injury.