(CN) — Seven former NFL players claim in court that their former law firms are wrongly trying to capitalize on their individual settlements from the league's concussion litigation.
Gale Sayers, Lem Barney, Thomas Skladany, Thomas Vaughn, Jerry Rush, Kenneth Callicutt and Eric Hipple sued five law firms in Eastern Pennsylvania Federal Court on Wednesday, alleging that the firms have or will file attorney's liens against unearned future proceeds of the players' individual monetary awards under the National Football League's concussion settlement agreement.
The firms named as defendants are Hausfeld LLP; Zimmerman Reed LLP; Locks Law Firm LLC; Bondurant, Mixon & Elmore LLP; and Pope, McGlamry, Kilpatrick, Morrison & Norwood PC.
The former players were part of a class-action lawsuit against the NLF for brain injuries allegedly suffered as a result of playing in the league. A settlement was reached for nearly $1 billion, and it was upheld by the Third Circuit on April 18.
Each player had been represented by one of the defendant law firms, but all ended representation months ago "due to dissatisfaction for various reasons," their suit claims.
They then hired Cummings, McClorey, Davis & Acho PLC (CMDA), a Michigan law firm, to pursue individual awards under the concussion settlement.
After being relieved of their services, the defendant law firms filed, or "may assert," attorney's liens regarding the individual awards, which would "unjustly enrich defendants at plaintiffs' expense," the 24-page lawsuit claims.
The defendant law firms represented the former players in their class action, but the players claim that, following that settlement, their attorneys did little to pursue individual monetary awards, which led to their firing.
Following the class-action settlement, class members were allowed to file individual claims, which are separate from the class action, but "defendant laws firms have not only not completed substantive work, but have not advanced the plaintiffs' individual claims for monetary awards under the settlement agreement," the complaint states.
The former players claim that filing a lien on future awards for work not performed amounts to "double dipping."
They say that CMDA, their current firm, has instead been aggressive in pursuing the individual claims, "sending plaintiffs to neurologists and neuropsychologist for evaluation, reviewing medical records, evaluating potential claims with doctors, preparing documents for claim packages, communicating with physicians, and communicating with clients regarding their individual claims."
The new firm is therefore solely entitled to a fee on recovery of individual awards, the former players allege.
"The general sentiment of the plaintiffs is that they are angry that liens have been or have been threatened to be placed against future recovery on their individual claims for which virtually all of the work was done by the law firm of Cummings, McClorey, Davis & Acho, including sending them to the neurologists and much more," says Arthur Goldman, who represents the former players. "All of the plaintiffs feel that any legal fees off of the recovery on the individual claims should go to Mr. Acho's firm."
Hausfeld LLP and Zimmerman Reed LLP, two of the defendant firms, did not immediately respond to requests for comment Friday morning.
Each former player, with the exception of Sayers, formerly played for the Detroit Lions. Sayers played for the Chicago Bears.