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Andrew Stewart: Show Me the Money!

Nov 14, 2012

Many of you may remember Andrew Stewart’s disability case that took nearly two years to get to court after it was first filed in 2010. They won the case resoundingly in June of this year, topped with a scathing ruling from Judge William Quarles who presided over the entire hearing. You may even recall the doctor the NFL called in to do a second opinion on Andrew’s injuries when they weren’t happy with the first doctor that they also chose. Without so much as seeing Andrew or reviewing his x-rays, he declared Andrew’s injuries to be totally unrelated to football. Then in the last paragraph, he reminds the Plan to send him another $500 check for his additional “review.” (You can read all of our earlier posts covering his case by clicking HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE.) FOX Sports A.J. Perez also covered the ruling in an article from June written right after the case closed:

Stewart wins suit, earns NFL pension

Andrew Stewart earned a rare victory against the NFL pension plan this week as a federal judge ruled officials “abused their discretion” in denying the Cleveland Browns defensive lineman disability benefits.
US District Court Judge William Quarles Jr. ordered Bert Bell/Pete Rozelle NFL Player Retirement Plan — a benefit run jointly by the NFL and NFL Players Association — to provide Stewart with permanent disability benefits in a ruling issued on Tuesday. The judgment was made retroactive to August 2008, when Stewart initially put in a claim for disability benefits for leg and hand injuries suffered during his short career.
“I was shocked, to be honest,” Stewart told on Wednesday. “Nobody ever wins these cases.”
This is only the second case the pension plan has lost in court. The other was when the estate of Pittsburgh Steelers center Mike Webster won a judgment in 2005, which was upheld later on appeal.
You can read the rest of the article by clicking HERE.
OK – so that was supposed to be the whole story. And Andrew Stewart should have started receiving his disability benefits retroactive to the day he applied back in 2010. But as A.J. Perez stated, “This is only the second case the pension plan has lost in court.”
What did we expect? The NFL and its Plan – or rather the lawyers – filed an appeal not long after the decision. And here it is closing in on the end of the year and Andrew Stewart and his family still hasn’t gotten one penny of his disability benefits yet. Quite frankly, everyone – not just retired football players – is sick and tired of the double- and triple-dealing lawyers who have continued to get wealthy from keeping their hands in every pocket they can find. If a player like Andrew wins his case, they appeal. And appeal. And appeal. Doesn’t cost them anything and they have everything to gain with each appeal. We have continued to point out that The Groom Law Group, led by Doug Ell, wrote the Bert Bell/Pete Rozelle Plan and they represent the Plan and the NFL. And although the Disability Board is supposed to be comprised of three representatives from the owners and three representatives from the players’ side, most of the members of the Board have direct ties to the NFL and are compensated by the League in one form or another whether it be as an announcer or a coach. And NONE of the Board members have any medical, neurological or vocational expertise. The conflicts of interest are overwhelming and the self-serving participation of the lawyers is conducted openly and without any regard for even so much as one iota of transparency. Probably because these people have been getting away with this for so long, they’ve grown arrogant or complacent. So it was probably a shock when they lost their second disability case ever (the first was actually Mike Webster’s case but it was won on behalf of his family post-mortem after his sudden death at the age of 50).
Click on letter to enlarge in new screen.
In the past, we’ve often pointed out that football players are the only ones who don’t get paid in college. All the universities make millions from the revenues, the networks make millions from the broadcast rights and the NFL gets to pick the best players without having to pay for their training. Seems like it’s the same deal for retired players: After short careers where they finally get paid, once you retire, everyone else gets paid EXCEPT the football players: The Commissioner, the Executive Director of the NFLPA, everyone who works at the NFLPA, the NFL and Plan office. And especially the lawyers like Groom Law Group.
We recently found a copy of the court transcripts from Andrew’s hearing in the public records. Please be forewarned: Some of what you’ll read in the statements made about retired football players will turn your stomach. The transcript is posted on Scribd for easy viewing and to make them downloadable for printing. You can also click the Enlarge icon in the lower right corner of the menu at the bottom of the viewing screen to go Full Screen for easier reading (just hit the ESC key to close):
Andrew Stewart vs Bert Nell/Pete Rozelle NFL Players Retirement Plan et al – Court Transcript

3 Responses so far | Have Your Say!

  1. Joe S.
    November 15th, 2012 at 1:36 pm #

    Joe Steed

    The longer the denials and stalling the NFL maintains is in direct proportion to the games played and rise of concussive issues during the weeks of game play. In other words, the longer players are getting hurt with concussions in the weekly games that are played, the heightened awareness and self-evidence to the case of retired players. In the end, we will win because the longer there is continued national exposure on the concussion issue, the more likely the NFL will either be self-defeating or implode.

    The next issue is the lawyers: I believe there are sturdy, incredibly able, wonderful attorneys appointed by God to fight the good fight. But then there are the other ones…

    Joe Steed
    Pittsburgh Steelers
    1992 – 1999

  2. Dave Pear
    November 15th, 2012 at 4:48 pm #

    Dave Pear

    The Retirement Board doesn’t follow their own Plan rules.

    We all need to read the section titled Duty of Care: Section 8.8 (Page 33) in the copy of the Plan attached below.

    Instead, they do the opposite by protecting the Plan at all costs. The Plan hires The Groom Law Group (Doug Ell) – who wrote the plan – to represent them in court. And when the disabled player wins his claim, the Groom Law Group appeals.

    Then the whole vocational aspect of disability is missing. Doctors are allowed to deny claims and write on the NFL disability form the word “sedentary” as the type of job the disabled player can perform. What does that mean? Doctors have no training or expertise in this area and are not supposed to opine on issues that they have no expertise.

    Also, NO ONE on the Disability Board is truly qualified to vote on disability claims. They have no training and certainly don’t understand disability law. And the three retired players either work for the NFL or the NFLPA. The three owner representatives protect the Plan and deny claims. Then the seventh member known as the Chairman makes the final decision in the event of a tie. The Chairman is Commissioner Roger Goodell and he has NFL attorney Harold Henderson fill in for him. Oh – by the way, Commissioner Goodell was asked a simple question by retired player Conrad Dobler a few years ago on Roger’s Excellent Adventure to meet the players and find out the real issues: Conrad publicly asked Roger Goodell if he was the Chairman of the Disability Board. Roger was not sure!

    With a system like this, the fox is left to guard the hen house, making it virtually impossible for any disabled player to receive his earned benefits.

    Instead, the Plan decides to pay attorneys like Doug Ell and Larry Lamade so they can protect the assets of the plan.

    This is illegal and grossly unfair especially for a $10 Billion business like the NFL that is a nonprofit and has an antitrust exemption.

    Dave & Heidi Pear

    Bert Bell Pete Rozelle Plan 2009

  3. Rob Belgeri
    November 16th, 2012 at 9:26 am #

    Rob Belgeri

    This is Example A for why Roger Goodell can eat my butt before I’ll ever waste another second of my time watching, reading about or discussing his “product.” And the NFLPA is a damn disgrace to organized labor. A pox on both their houses.

    Rob Belgeri

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