Philadelphia's Anapol Schwartz takes on NFL

Michael P. Tremoglie Aug. 24, 2011, 12:00pm

Former Bears' and Eagles' QB Jim McMahon


PHILADELPHIA - It seems the Eagles aren't the only team in town ready for some NFL action. The lawyers of Anapol, Schwartz, Weiss, Cohan, Feldman and Smalley have taken on the National Football League in federal court.

Seven former professional football players -- among them former Chicago Bears and Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jim McMahon and Philadelphia Eagles lineman Gerry Feehery -- retained the Philadelphia law firm, alleging the NFL failed to properly treat their concussions, concealed links between football and brain injuries, and was responsible for causing the damage because of coaching players received.

Anapol Schwartz attorney Larry Cohan is lead counsel in the class action filed Aug. 17 in federal court in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. While he could not be reached, Sol Weiss, co-counsel in the case, did comment.

"The NFL has known for decades about this problem," Weiss said. "Among the other things we ask for in the complaint, we have asked, number one, a medical monitoring program be established for past, present and future players...There is an increasing body of evidence that there will be early dementia and other medical problems for these players."

Louisiana attorney Harvey Koch, who specializes in sports law, said the grounds for seeking class action status are "problematical" in the players' suit. Yet, he said, there is the possibility it would be granted.

"If the league is found culpable it would adjust," Koch said. He also said that this suit could set a precedent for other sports industries which have a high incidence of similar injuries.

Last month, retired NFL players sued the league as individuals in Los Angeles. But the case at hand is the first one seeking class action status.

Clare Graff of the NFL's Corporate Communications Department said that "(The NFL's) attorneys are reviewing the suit and we will vigorously contest these claims."

The complaint says that the NFL has known about this, that there is data to show that NFL players have a higher incidence of dementia, Alzheimer and other similar diseases, and that the NFL sought to suppress evidence of this, and other allegations.

Cohan and Weiss allege that the prerequisite criteria for a class action: numerosity, commonality, typicality and adequacy of representation, have all been met in this case.

They claim the NFL engaged in concealment, civil conspiracy and negligence. They ask for damages for the players and the players' spouses.

Cohan is known nationally for trying brain and spinal cord injury cases. A subspecialty of this involves those injuries where a helmet failure is a factor. He also specializes in the area of crashworthiness, seat belt, seat back and air bag deployment failures - as well as those involving ejection and sudden acceleration.

In 2010, Cohan was recipient of the American Association for Justice's Consumer Advocacy award. He has obtained "numerous seven- and eight-figure verdicts and settlements nationwide, including a $26 million verdict for a woman rendered a quadriplegic in a motor vehicle accident involving a seat failure, and a $12 million verdict for a high school football player who became a quadriplegic due to the defective design of his helmet," says Anapol Schwartz's fall 2010 newsletter.

Anapol Schwartz was ranked the number one law firm in Pennsylvania by U.S. News and World Report for the category of "Mass Tort Litigation/Class Actions - Plaintiffs."

Included among the firm's more prominent actions is an employment law case resulting in a $1.4 million verdict for punitive damages against DuPont for concealment of medical records; a personal injury case in which a record producer, who was struck by a falling canoe, was awarded more than $1.07 million; a class action suit against Rohm and Haas chemical company; and a multimillion dollar class action settlement against Atlantic Richfield Company.

Anapol Schwartz was also involved in a landmark case concerning federal preemption laws. The Supreme Court ruled March 4, 2009 in Wyeth v. Levine that drug manufacturers could not use the federal preemption defense in a product liability case.

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