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The New York Post
Lawyers representing many former NFL players pushed back hard on Wednesday against a suggestion they cap their total fees at 30 percent when pursuing a payout from the roughly $1 billion concussion settlement.
Last month, a court-appointed expert said the 191 players who have had their concussion claims approved risked paying out as much as 67 percent of their settlement in legal fees.
Former players pay two separate legal fees — one to lawyers who filed their claims and a second to the lawyer who negotiates their settlement.
The expert, Harvard professor William Rubenstein, suggested lawyers receive a total payout of 30 percent of the settlement — 15 percent each to the lawyers who filed the claims and those who negotiated the payout.
In six separate briefs filed on Wednesday, lawyers asked federal court Judge Anita Brody not to cap their fees.
"It is not reasonable to expect former players with significant, if not catastrophic, cognitive impairment to navigate the claims process without the help of sophisticated legal assistance," said Jason Luckasevic, credited with being the first to sue the NFL over concussion claims.
Wednesday was the deadline for lawyers representing the more than 20,000 players who have filed to be part of the settling class to reply to Rubenstein's suggestion.
The settlement covers living players who retired before July 7, 2014, and families of some players who have died.
If Brody accepts Rubenstein's suggestions, players will be able to keep more of the roughly $1 billion settlement.
The NFL has already paid $112.5 million into a common fund for the lawyers who prepared the settled suit.
Rubenstein considers it double-dipping for lawyers to be charging additional fees for submitting settlement applications.
"Some players face the possibility of paying nearly two-thirds of their recoveries to these two sets of lawyers," Rubenstein said in court papers filed in December.
The lawyers, in asking Brody not to set a cap, said the NFL was making settlements hard to collect, and that was creating much work for them.
As of Dec. 11, a total of 1,913 former players or their families applied for a concussion settlement. The NFL has processed 234, or 12 percent, of the applications, according to court records.
The NFL has approved and paid out on 191 of those applications a total of $241 million — or an average of $1.26 million per claim.
The other claims, representing a total of 18 percent of the approved applications, were rejected.
"Professor Rubenstein's assumption that claimants would enjoy a streamlined process has proven to be incorrect," a second lawyer, Gene Locks, said in a Wednesday filing.
"The NFL's obstruction has required sophisticated individual representation for each former player," Locks said. "Very few claims have succeeded without a litigated fight over alleged deficiencies, audits, and appeal."
Luckasevic, in court papers, said of 39 players' claims he has handled through the entire settlement process, 30 received monetary awards — nine have been denied.
The NFL is appealing seven of his clients' awards, and he is appealing four of the denials.
The NFL did not return calls. firstname.lastname@example.org
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