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Baltimore Partner Cy Smith Helps Ex-Steelers Great Win Appeal Against NFL

December 10, 2006

Ex-Steelers great Mike Webster, who died in 2002, won a final battle against the NFL's pension plan today. Webster, who played 245 games at center (the most ever), and every offensive down over a six-year period, was active from 1974 until 1991. The Steelers won four Super Bowls with him at center, and he was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 1997.

In a unanimous opinion released today, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit upheld a 2005 trial court ruling that Mike Webster was totally and permanently disabled as a result of multiple brain injuries from playing pro football. The court found that the NFL's pension plan lacked substantial evidence to deny Webster an active football disability pension. The court also found that the NFL ignored the unanimous medical evidence, including that of its own medical expert, [and] disregarded the conclusion of its own appointed investigator. And the court found that there is nothing in [the] record to uphold the NFL's denial of benefits.

Today's ruling will result in the award of at least $1.5 to 2 million to Mike Webster's family, which include his four children. It will also set a precedent for other disabled retired NFL players, who have argued that the NFL pension plan is unfairly restrictive in the disability benefits it awards. The Webster family's win is the first ruling by an appeals court against an NFL disability pension award.

Baltimore-based Zuckerman partner Cy Smith prosecuted the case in trial court and argued the appeal. He was joined by West Virginia attorney Bob Fitzsimmons, who filed the disability claim in 1999. "This is a big win for Mike's children, who deserve a fair accounting from the NFL for the injuries their father suffered", said Mr. Smith. He added, "It's also a big win for other NFL players who deserve disability benefits and can see that justice has been done in this case."

Founded in 1975, Zuckerman Spaeder LLP is one of the nation's leading litigation firms, with offices in Washington, Baltimore, New York, and Tampa. Zuckerman Spaeder represents corporations and individuals in high stakes litigation with complex civil and criminal liability.

Please click below to see the court filing.

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