Several other attorneys filed joinder motions, asserting their myriad concerns with the settlement process, the NFL’s role and the work done by the Christopher Seeger, the co-lead class counsel. In issuing her order, Brody cited her “familiarity with all aspects of the implementation of the settlement and the chance to witness the fine job Seeger Weiss has done in protecting all the Members of the Class.”
According to the most recent claims report issued this week, 222 claims have been paid out, totaling nearly $172 million. An additional 153 claims have been granted but not yet paid.
Much of the players’ consternation surrounds the dementia claims, which represent the majority of the claims in the settlement. According to the latest claims report, of the 2,230 claims that have been submitted by former players, 1,135 are for dementia. More than a year after players began filing their claims, only nine dementia claims have been paid out — totaling nearly $7 million. The report states that 109 others have received a notice of a monetary award but payment is pending for most and the NFL still has the ability to appeal. Thus far, the NFL has appealed 50 claims that had been awarded by the claims administrator.
Seeger filed a motion opposing Locks’s request last week, calling the settlement “an unprecedented accomplishment.”
“Contrary to the rhetoric coming from Locks and the Joinders in support of its motion, one should make no mistake — the Settlement is working, albeit not perfectly,” Seeger said in his response. “As a Settlement without precedent, it took some time to resolve the many issues attendant to the scope of the Settlement benefits offered.”
Both Seeger and the NFL have contended that many holdups in the claims process are a result of potentially fraudulent claims filed by former players and the audit process that investigates them. The NFL filed a motion with the court last week requesting Brody appoint a special investigator to help root out fraudulent claims.
According to the NFL’s motion, BrownGreer, the Richmond-based claims administrator, has recommended more than 400 claims be denied because of “misstatement, omission or concealment of material facts — a striking 23% of the total claims submitted — and that thirteen neurologists or neuropsychologists and one Retired NFL Football Player be permanently disqualified from the Program.”
As of last week, the NFL said 230 claims were still being investigated for suspected fraud.
“The pervasive fraud by doctors, lawyers and certain players cannot be allowed to continue,” the NFL said in its motion. “The victims are not only the NFL Defendants, but also deserving, cognitively impaired players whose claims have not been able to be processed promptly as a result of the significant efforts required of the Claims Administrator to thwart fraud.”
In a statement, Brad Karp, the attorney representing the NFL in the matter, said, “There is significant evidence of fraudulent claims being advanced by unscrupulous doctors, lawyers and even players. The appointment of a Special Investigator was specifically contemplated in the agreement, and will provide important additional tools to assist the independent, court-appointed administrators in identifying fraudulent claims and related misconduct.”
It’s possible the special masters who oversee the case for the court soon will issue a report detailing the exact nature of the fraud and recommend barring doctors or lawyers from being part of the settlement process. In a statement last week, Seeger agreed with the NFL, saying “the appointment of a special investigator is appropriate.”
“However, we will not allow this small number of claims to be used as an excuse by the NFL to deny payment to legitimately injured former players,” he said. “Unlike other NFL benefits programs, this settlement is overseen by the court, and the League cannot escape its responsibility. We will make sure that former NFL players and their families receive every benefit they are entitled to under this agreement.”