by Irvin Muchnick
Concussion Inc.’s good friend George Visger, a defensive lineman on the first San Francisco 49ers Super Bowl champions, scored a major victory for discarded ex-National Football Leaguers last month when the California Court of Appeal ruled in his favor in his long-running worker’s compensation case against Travelers Insurance.
On February 4, the court rejected Traveler’s appeal and affirmed the earlier findings in favor of Visger by the state Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board. As a result, Travelers will be compelled to pay for long-deferred medical care for Visger.
As Visger told in his 2011 ebook short for us, OUT OF MY HEAD: My Life In and Out of Football, Visger sustained multiple concussions in 1980-81 and eventually was diagnosed with hydrocephalus (fluid build-up on the brain).
In 1984, following the first three of his brain surgeries in which shunts to drain the fluid were installed and re-installed, the compensation board awarded Visger a grand total of $10,552.50 after categorizing him as 35 percent permanently disabled. The finding also required Travelers Insurance, on behalf of the 49ers, to provide “such further medical care as is necessary to cure or relieve from effects of his industrial injury.” However, two full decades of delays ensued before Visger retained the Asvar law firm of Los Angeles.
By 2012, Visger had needed six additional corrective brain shunt surgeries. Along the way, he had earned a degree in environmental biology and run a successful consulting business — in addition to marrying and having three kids.
But steady cognitive decline caught up with Visger, and no meaningful medical treatment was being offered.
In 2013, a case manager handpicked by Travelers recommended a treatment program. But the insurance carrier balked at the cost. See “George Visger’s Holiday Gift From Travelers Insurance: They Stopped Paying His Medical Bills,” December 24, 2014, https://concussioninc.net/?p=9756.
“In any other branch of insurance industry, except worker’s compensation, this would be the very definition of ‘bad faith’ with serious consequences,” said Visger’s attorney Chris Asvar.
Last year, at the conclusion of more than two years of litigation based solely on the issue of medical treatment, the compensation appeal board rejected Traveler’s arguments and upheld a California Superior Court ruling in Visger’s favor. Last month’s Court of Appeal decision reaffirmed it.
I don’t believe in running plaintiff lawyers’ press releases intact, but I’m happy to offer an extensive quote from Asvar in this one: “Unfortunately, we have not seen the last Junior Seau, or the last John Mackey, or the last Ken Stabler — folk heroes who put all they had into their professional carriers. But some majestic life force within George has kept him fighting and kept him going. Time is not on our side, and years of heart-breaking delay in treatment do this man no favor. And Travelers knows that very well.”