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NFL Player’s Ex-Wife Shut Out of Brain Injury Case

Jan. 15, 2019, 5:55 PM

The ex-wife of a brain-injured Kansas City Chiefs player may not intervene in his concussion-related lawsuit against the National Football League to present her loss of consortium claims, a federal court in Pennsylvania ruled.

The Jan. 14 decision by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania is the latest in a litigation saga over the application of the $1 billion concussion class settlement between the NFL and retired players who say the league didn’t warn about or protect them from later-life brain diseases associated with the sport.

Cynthia Phillips, who was married to retired NFL player Joseph Phillips from 1992 to 1998, brought her motion to intervene far too late, Judge Anita S. Brody said.

Brody, who oversees the concussion class settlement, also ruled Phillips’s claims were precluded by the settlement.

Phillips was bound by the class settlement, which barred all claims of non-opt-out spouses and children for injuries arising from players’ concussions. That was so even though Joseph opted-out of the deal, Brody said.

Joseph, who played 14 NFL seasons, six of them as a tackle for the Chiefs in the 1990s, agreed to dismiss his case in September 2018 after “confidential settlement discussions” with the league, according to the decision.

Cynthia’s claims were also barred because she didn’t seek to intervene until nearly five years after her ex-husband’s lawsuit was filed and a month before it was dismissed.

“At this late stage of the litigation—when all claims have been either settled or dismissed—allowing intervention would prejudice the Chiefs by forcing them to now engage in discovery, and expend time and resources they made the strategic choice to avoid,” the court said.

Tershel & Associates and the John D. Giddens Law Firm represented Cynthia Phillips. Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton & Garrison LLP and Baty Holm Numrich & Otto represented the Chiefs.

The case is In re Nat’l Football League Players Concussion Injury Litig., 2019 BL 12837, E.D. Pa., Nos. 12-md-02323, 14-cv-1995, 1/14/19.

To contact the reporter on this story: Steven M. Sellers in Washington at ssellers@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jo-el J. Meyer at jmeyer@bloomberglaw.com; Nicholas Datlowe at ndatlowe@bloomberglaw.com

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