Active Case

NFL Player Retirement Plan

NFL Player Retirement Plan Disability Litigation

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Summary of the Lawsuit

This lawsuit alleges that the NFL Management Council, the NFL Players Association and the Retirement Board of the Bert Bell/Pete Rozelle NFL Player Retirement Plan (the “Plan”), violated the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”) by failing to properly disclose to participants the requirements for reclassification of disability benefits under the Plan.

Summary of the Claims

The Bert Bell/Pete Rozelle NFL Player Retirement Plan provides several types of Total and Permanent Disability benefits (“T&P benefits”), including Football Degenerative benefits (“FD benefits”), to participants. FD benefits provide a minimum of $4,000 per month in T&P benefits for participants who developed disability(ies) as a result of NFL football related activities and before 15 years after the end of that player’s last credited season. T&P benefits provide a smaller monthly minimum than FD benefits.

In order to receive T&P benefits, players must undergo initial classification with the Disability Initial Claims Committee or the Retirement Board in order to determine the category of disability benefits that they qualify. If their circumstances change, players must apply for reclassification in order to demonstrate they are eligible for a different category of T&P benefits. The Plan’s summary plan description (“SPD”) states that players must prove “changed circumstances” in order to successfully apply for reclassification. However, “changed circumstances” is not defined or explained in the SPD although the Retirement Board had a specific interpretation of the phrase. The SPD also discourages participants from seeking an attorney in connection to their claim for benefits.

This lawsuit claims that Defendants violated ERISA in failing to properly inform players of the specific standards of reclassification of their category of disability benefits, including that reclassification requires a higher standard of approval than initial classification. This resulted in participants locking themselves into a lower category of benefits (i.e. T&P benefits instead of FD benefits) by completing the easier application for disability benefits first.

Class Action Allegations

This lawsuit is brought on behalf of the following persons:

All participants of the Bert Ball/Pete Rozelle NFL Player Retirement Plan and who filed a claim seeking total and permanent disability benefits prior to January 1, 2015 and the beneficiaries of such persons.

Excluded from the Class are Defendants and persons who were named fiduciaries of the Plan, the officers and directors of the NFL Management Council, the officers and directors of the NFL Players Association, the members of the immediate families of any of the foregoing; and legal representatives, successors, heirs, and assigns of any such excluded persons.

Status of the Litigation

The Class Action Complaint was filed on May 22, 2018. Defendants have not yet responded to the Complaint.

Case Documents

Block & Leviton LLP
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