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Retired NFL Cornerback Wins Disability Benefits from League Plan

June 2, 2022, 1:00 PM

Retired cornerback Charles Dimry is entitled to permanent and total disability benefits under the National Football League retirement plan, a California federal judge ruled after the Ninth Circuit sided with Dimry in his second lawsuit against the plan.

The Bert Bell/Pete Rozelle NFL Player Retirement Plan mishandled Dimry’s claim for benefits by failing to sufficiently address his award of disability benefits from the Social Security Administration and by relying on an “illogical” opinion from a reviewing physician, Magistrate Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley of the US District Court for the Northern District of California ruled Wednesday.

Corley disagreed with how the plan’s medical director analyzed Dimry’s case.

It makes “no sense” for the medical director to opine that the pain “may be real and severe even without certain objective evidence and then conclude that the pain is not sufficiently severe because of a lack of objective evidence,” she said.

In addition to finding that the plan mishandled Dimry’s claim, Corley also concluded that Dimry had proven his entitlement to benefits. Each of Dimry’s treating physicians recorded his “debilitating reports of pain,” and these reports were corroborated by the physicians retained by the plan, she said.

Corley gave the parties 30 days to figure out how much Dimry is owed in benefits.

Dimry, who played for the Atlanta Falcons, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and other teams during the 1980s and 1990s, has been fighting with the NFL plan over his disability benefits for more than six years.

In 2018, a federal judge determined that the plan mishandled his benefit claim by exhibiting bias in favor of plan-selected doctors. The plan was ordered to reevaluate Dimry’s claim and pay him nearly $300,000 in attorneys’ fees.

Dimry filed this lawsuit in 2019, arguing that the plan didn’t take the court’s 2018 order seriously. Corley sided with Dimry in 2020 and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed, sending the case back to Corley for a determination on whether Dimry was entitled to benefits.

Pillsbury & Coleman LLP represents Dimry. Groom Law Group and Farella Braun & Martel LLP represent the NFL plan.

The case is Dimry v. Bert Bell/Pete Rozelle NFL Player Retirement Plan, 2022 BL 188606, N.D. Cal., No. 3:19-cv-05360, 6/1/22.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jacklyn Wille in Washington at jwille@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rob Tricchinelli at rtricchinelli@bloomberglaw.com; Patrick L. Gregory at pgregory@bloomberglaw.com