Court Finds NFL Broke Law in Refusing Benefits for Brain Injuries

On Friday, March 4, 2016, a federal judge in Baltimore found that the National Football League’s (NFL) pension plan had violated federal law by refusing to pay higher disability benefits for a retiree’s brain injury. In the case of Jesse Solomon v. Bert Bell/Pete Rozelle NFL Player Retirement Plan, Judge Marvin Garbis ruled that the NFL’s pension plan had “no evidence” to refuse the higher benefits owed to Mr. Solomon.

Judge Garbis found that Solomon sustained about 69,000 full-speed collisions during his career and was hit so hard “too many times to count” in “helmet-to-helmet collisions” that he “experienced triple vision” and “lost sense of who he was.” By 2005, an MRI of Solomon’s brain showed abnormalities, and he was forced to retire from his job as a teacher in 2007 and has been unable to work ever since. In 2010 and 2011, Mr. Solomon's psychiatrist and a physician chosen by the NFL pension plan found that he was likely suffering from Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), the main disease caused by multiple concussions.

“Judge Garbis recognized that Mr. Solomon suffered from disabling brain injuries based on the evidence presented in the case,” said Cy Smith, partner at Zuckerman Spaeder LLP, who represented Mr. Solomon with Counsel William K. Meyer. “This ruling could be significant for the current national class action concussion litigation because the parties have refused to pay benefits to any living retiree with CTE, including Solomon, claiming that it is impossible to determine whether the disease exists until the player is dead.”

Cy Smith won the first-ever victory against the NFL's pension plan, for ex-Pittsburgh Steeler great Mike Webster. That win paved the way for today's public, media and legislative scrutiny of concussions in professional sports.

Jesse Solomon began his career as a linebacker for the Minnesota Vikings in 1986 and played for six teams, finishing his career with the Miami Dolphins in 1995.

For more information about Jesse Solomon v. Bert Bell/Pete Rozelle NFL Player Retirement Plan and to download a copy of the decision, visit

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Katie Munroe
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