Uptown lawyers are only San Diego representatives involved in federal court case for player safety
By Monica Garske | SDUN Reporter
Lawyers from the firm Casey Gerry Schenk Francavilla Blatt & Penfield, LLP, located at 110 Laurel St. in Bankers Hill, are contributing their expertise to a federal committee in litigation against the National Football League (NFL).
The Casey Gerry firm has been appointed by U.S. District Judge Anita Brody to serve on the Plaintiff’s Steering Committee (PSC), which is developing a lawsuit against the NFL on behalf of retired players. The suit alleges multiple concussions can lead to long-term, traumatic brain injuries.
Local attorney Frederick Schenk is representing the firm on the PSC and said Casey Gerry is one of only nine firms in the United States working on the committee, and the only one from San Diego.
He said his firm, which specializes in personal injury law, was chosen “based on our advocacy in this area of litigation.”
The firm recently settled a case involving former Mission Hills High School football player Scott Eveland, who suffered severe brain injury during a 2007 game. The San Marcos student was awarded a $4.3 million settlement in his case in March.
Schenk said the approximately 24 lawyers on the PSC are charged with overseeing the multidistrict litigation in approximately 2,000 cases involving retired NFL players who have filed lawsuits in the last 18 months.
Schenk said every case revolves around concussions and the subsequent emotional distress that many NFL players reportedly suffer as a result of their careers in the hard-hitting professional sport.
PSC duties include collecting statements, examining witnesses, introducing evidence at hearings and negotiating settlements with defendants, among other tasks.
“Our job on the Steering Committee is to help Judge Brody understand the important issues and arguments on behalf of these retired NFL players,” Schenk said. “She is the judge overseeing this entire federal court case against the NFL. We’re working to present these cases to her in a cohesive manner.”
The PSC has already started compiling evidence, Schenk said.
Another partner from Casey Gerry, attorney Robert Francavilla, is serving on the PSC’s medicine and science sub-committee, which researches literature to help identify the relationship between playing football and developing head injuries.
Francavilla’s job includes speaking with medical experts in this field.
Ultimately, Schenk said, the committee’s goal is to build a strong case that will allow players to receive proper compensation and prompt the NFL to make professional football safer for the players.
“We think there is responsibility on the part of the NFL for not disclosing the known risks that stem from concussions and football injuries, including dementia and depression,” Schenk said. “When all is said and done, we are hoping to have allowed these retired players to have their day in court [and] to have their grievances heard in front of a jury and judge.”
Schenk also said he thinks lawyers for the NFL will try to get these cases dismissed. However, he said he believes justice in this litigation isn’t only in the best interest of the plaintiffs, but of the NFL, as well.
“We don’t want to punish the NFL or take out a beloved sports institution here, we just want to compensate deserving players. We want the NFL to take responsibility and make the sport safer for the players on the field, and provide proper care and medical monitoring to players once they’ve retired. We don’t want professionals to stop playing the game, just for the game to be safer,” he said.
Schenk said this type of litigation against the NFL has been ongoing, but was recently thrust into the spotlight with the death of former San Diego Chargers player, Junior Seau.
Although it has yet to be medically determined whether Seau suffered the kind of football injuries that lead to depression, Schenk said his death has driven attention to these issues affecting retired NFL players.
“There are about 20,000 players total in the league, so I’m certain more players will file lawsuits like this in the future. What happens in our [multidistrict litigation] will be the barometer for future cases regarding this type of litigation against the NFL,” Schenk said.
No exact timeline has been set for the PSC to complete their work, although Schenk said Judge Brody wants the firms to work together quickly to identify the issues in these cases. He said the Committee’s work should take roughly four to five months before it is ready for Judge Brody to review it and issue a ruling.