Former National Football League cornerback Charles Dimry convinced a federal judge in California that the league’s retirement plan was wrong when it denied him total and permanent disability benefits.
The plan failed to properly examine Dimry’s medical records and denied benefits based on an unreasonable bias in favor of plan-selected doctors, Judge James Donato of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California held March 12.
Donato’s ruling is another victory for former NFL players challenging the league’s decision to deny them disability benefits.
Last year, former NFL linebacker Jesse Solomon was awarded extra benefits from the league’s plan to account for head trauma and other injuries he suffered over a nine-season career. Former NFL tight end Jimmie Giles scored asimilar victory against the league plan in 2013, when a federal judge in Maryland agreed that Giles became disabled within 15 years of retiring. Similar lawsuits by former safety Gene Atkins, guard BrentBoyd, and defensive end Jeffrey Bryant were less successful.
Donato took issue with the plan’s rationale for denying Dimry’s claim and the substantial payment one of the plan’s doctors received for his services. The plan “simply adopted the opinions of its retained” doctors by default, he said. Although a plan owes no special deference to the opinions of treating physicians and is entitled to treat a single medical opinion sufficient to adjudicate a claim, it isn’t entitled to decide a claim by “mere default to a plan-selected physician,” Donato said.
Donato sent the case back to the plan for re-evaluation because the record is mixed and doesn’t clearly establish Dimry’s eligibility for benefits. Dimry, who played for the Atlanta Falcons, Denver Broncos, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Philadelphia Eagles, and San Diego Chargers between 1988 and 2000, suffered multiple injuries during his career that made him seek disability benefits in 2014.
Pillsbury & Coleman LLP represents Dimry. Groom Law Group Chartered and Farella Braun Martel LLP represent the plan.
The case is Dimry v. Bert Bell/Pete Rozelle NFL Player Ret. Plan, N.D. Cal., No. 3:16-cv-01413-JD, order granting plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment 3/12/18.