A federal district court in Maryland has ruled in favor of retired player Andrew Stewart in his lawsuit against the Bert Bell / Pete Rozelle NFL Retirement Plan over disability benefits. Judge William D. Quarles, Jr.’s summary judgment, issued yesterday, holds that the plan violated the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, and orders payment to Stewart of so-called “T&P” (total and permanently disabled) football degenerative benefits.
The 41-page opinion can be viewed at http://muchnick.net/stewartopinion.pdf.
I have been critical of Judge Quarles for certain procedural rulings in this case. I also note that Stewart’s claim involved orthopedic, not brain, injuries. Some legal experts might be arguing that no spectacular precedent has been set in this reversal by the court of the administrative denial of Stewart by the joint labor-management board managing the retirement plan, on the grounds that it abused its discretion.
But this is, without a doubt, a victory for the dissident retirees’ community and a sign that the NFL and the NFL Retirement Plan, under intense scrutiny, are not omnipotent.