$3.5 Million Legal Malpractice Deal in NFL Dispute

Bernard ParrishIn May, a federal judge will consider the fairness of a tentative $3.5 million legal malpractice settlement between retired NFL players Bernard Parrish, John Brodie, Paul Hornung and others against Manatt, Phelps & Phillips and the McKool Smith firms.

U.S. District Judge William ALsup on Thursday set May 30 for the fairness hearing in the case lead by former Cleveland Brown, Parrish.

The dispute grew out of the historic 2008 class action by 2,000 retired players, led by former Green Bay Packer Herb Adderly, against the NFL Players Assn. The retired players asserted the  players union failed to protect them in negotiated deals for the use of  their images  in video games, trading cards and other marketing deals. The Manatt and McKool firms represented the retired players.

A San Francisco federal jury in awarded retired players $28.1 million in damages after finding the union failed to protect the retired players,  essentially cutting thousands of retirees out of lucrative marketing deals.

The jury found $7.1 million in actual damages to players and $21 million in punitive damages. This was far less than the roughly $90 million the players originally sought.

The NFL Players Assn. appealed to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, but in 2009 reached a settlement of $26.25 million with retired players.

Just 18 months after the original verdict, Parrish and a group of roughly 50 disaffected retirees said they would sue Manatt and co-counsel McKool for malpractice, alleging the firms left them out of the settlement and fumbled a chance to win more damages at the trial.

In December 2010, U.S. District Judge William Alsup, who presided over the original trial, dismissed the malpractice suit. Parrish appealed the dismissal to the 9th Circuit and again, while the appeal was pending, the parties negotiated a settlement.

Thursday’s order by Alsup states Manatt and McKool deposited $3.5 million in escrow “to be used as a net settlement fund,” with attorney fees and settlement costs included in that fund.

Anyone in the class who wants to object to terms has until April 15, Alsup said.

Case: Parrish v. Manatt, Phelps & Phillips and McKool Smith, No. C10-3200WHA


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