One firm gets nearly half of the $112 million in concussion lawsuit legal fees

The concussion class action that generated a potentially gigantic settlement also has generated a significant amount of legal fees.

Via the Associated Press, the Seeger Weiss firm was awarded $51 million of the $112 million allocated for legal fees.

As would be expected, some lawyers who didn’t get as much as they wanted complained about the decision.

“It was almost like a disregard for the facts . . . a rushed decision to get it off the docket,” said attorney Craig Mitnick, whose firm received roughly $675,000.

In most civil cases, the lawyer representing the plaintiff receives as his or her fees as a specific chunk of the total recovery. In this case, the settlement of the global class action included a negotiated formula for paying claims of former players, along with a separate fund for payment of legal fees.

To secure approval of the settlement, the NFL eventually agreed to a fund has no financial cap. A report issued Monday showed that roughly about 35 percent of all claims have been paid, 31 percent have been denied, and 10 percent have been withdrawn. The payout for claims has averaged $650,000 per former player.

The specific claims, based primarily in the notion that the league failed to warn players of the risks of head injuries suffered while playing football, would have faced a very rigorous defense, with arguments rooted in legal concepts (e.g., the labor deal between league and union preempts separate litigation), factual contentions (e.g., even if the players had known the risks associated with playing football, they still would have played), and technicalities (e.g., the statute of limitations). The settlement also provided the former players with qualified conditions payment long before the lawsuit plus any appeals would have been resolved.

From the league’s perspective, resolving the case allowed documents and evidence regarding what the league knew and when the league knew it about brain injuries to remain concealed, along with proof of affirmative efforts (if any) to conceal the truth from players. The potential P.R. impact of such disclosures undoubtedly contributed to the NFL’s decision to drop potentially winning arguments in court for the deal that was struck in 2013 and eventually approved.