On January 14, 2008, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit awarded former NFL linebacker Wilber Marshall approximately $72,000 in disability benefits, plus attorney fees and court costs. Marshall filed suit against the Bert Bell/Pete Rozelle NFL Player Retirement Plan after the NFL Retirement Board denied him benefits for eight months in 2001. The Fourth Circuit found that when benefits were finally reinstated “the Board abused its discretion in selecting the onset date.”
Marshall first applied for disability benefits in 1997. His initial application for benefits was denied. Upon appeal, Marshall was awarded benefits retroactive to April 1, 1997. In 2000, Marshall was examined by Medical Advisory Physician, Dr. Bernard Bach, who reported that Marshall did not meet the requirements for his existing disability benefits. The NFL Retirement Board terminated Marshall’s benefits as of April 27, 2001. Marshall’s appeal of the termination of benefits was denied by the Board on August 2, 2001.
On November 13, 2001, Marshall reapplied for disability benefits through the NFL. He was examined by Dr. Walter Doren on December 7, 2001. According to court documents, Dr. Doren reported “that Marshall was unable to work and that based on a review of Marshall’s medical records, his symptoms had remained consistent since his initial evaluation in 1997.” The Retirement Board then referred Marshall to Medical Advisory Physician, Dr. Alfred Tria. On February 21, 2002, Tria reported Marshall was totally and permanently disabled. The Retirement Board eventually reinstated benefits retroactive to January 1, 2002.
Marshall disputed the effective date of the reinstatement of benefits. Dr. Doren reported “his symptoms had remained consistent since his initial evaluation in 1997.” The Retirement Board terminated Marshall’s disability benefits from May to December, 2001. This dispute led to Marshall’s lawsuit and, ultimately, a victory in the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.
A copy of the opinion may be viewed by clicking HERE.
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