KURT WARD LLC THE RETIREMENT BOARD OF BERT BELL PETE ROZELLE NFL PLAYER RETIREMENT PLAN THE BANK OF NEW YORK MELLON CORPORATION BERT BELL PETE ROZELLE NFL PLAYER RETIREMENT PLAN ODESSA TURNER MARVIN WOODSON v. <<

Reset A A Font size: Print

United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit.

KURT R. WARD, Attorney At Law, LLC, lllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll Plaintiff—Consol.  Counter Claimant—llllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll Consol.  Cross Claimant -lConsol.  Cross Defendant—Appellant, versus THE RETIREMENT BOARD OF BERT BELL/PETE ROZELLE NFL PLAYER RETIREMENT PLAN, llllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll Consol.  Plaintiff—llllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll Consol.  Counter Defendant—llllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll Appellee, THE BANK OF NEW YORK MELLON CORPORATION, llllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll.  Plaintiff, BERT BELL/PETE ROZELLE NFL PLAYER RETIREMENT PLAN, llllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll—Appellee, ODESSA TURNER, MARVIN WOODSON, llllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll Defendants—llllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll.  Defendants—llllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll Consol.  Cross Defendants—lllllllll lllllllllllAppellees.

No. 11–10320 Non–Argument Calendar _ D.C. Docket No. 1:10–cv–01776–RLV

Decided: June 22, 2011

Before TJOFLAT, CARNES and FAY, Circuit Judges.   PER CURIAM:  Kurt R. Ward, Attorney at Law, LLC, appeals the district court's order denying its motion for judgment on the pleadings and granting the Plan Parties' (the Bert Bell/Pete Rozelle NFL Player Retirement Plan, the Retirement Board of the Plan, and the Bank of New York Mellon Corporation) cross-motion for judgment on the pleadings.   Both parties' motions sought a declaration about whether the Plan Parties had to pay the disability benefits of two of the Ward Firm's retired NFL player clients into the firm's client trust account pursuant to state court judgments for unpaid attorney's fees despite a provision in the Plan prohibiting any “benefit under the Plan” from being assigned or reached by creditors through legal process.   I. Odessa Turner and Marvin Woodson, both retired NFL players, retained the Ward Firm to represent them during the administrative review of their claims for disability benefits under the Plan, which was a pension and welfare benefits plan governed by ERISA.   Turner and Woodson both entered into contingency fee contracts with the Ward Firm, promising to pay a percentage of any proceeds procured from the Plan. With the Ward Firm's assistance, Woodson successfully obtained disability benefits from the Plan in 2008 and Turner did so in 2009.   Sometime later both Turner and Woodson stopped paying the Ward Firm the attorney's fees they had promised to pay under the contingency fee contracts.   After Turner and Woodson stopped paying it, the Ward Firm brought suit against the two retired players in October 2009 for breach of contract in Georgia state court, which resulted in default judgments for the Ward Firm after the retired players failed to appear.   The default judgments awarded specific performance of the fee contracts to the Ward Firm, accomplishing that by directing the Plan Parties, who were not parties to the state court lawsuits, to pay all disability benefits for Turner and Woodson into the Ward Firm's client trust account for proper distribution under the terms of the contingency fee contracts.   In February 2010 the Ward Firm forwarded the judgments to the Plan Parties, including the Retirement Board.   The Retirement Board, acting on behalf of the Plan Parties, reviewed the judgments and refused to pay the disability payments into the Ward Firm's trust account.   The Retirement Board objected to the payment of the benefits because it determined that payment was prohibited by the Plan, specifically the Plan's spendthrift provision.   Section 11.2 of the Plan provided:  “Spendthrift” Provision.   No benefit under the Plan will be subject in any manner to anticipation, pledge, encumbrance, alienation, levy or assignment, nor to seizure, attachment or other legal process for the debts of any Player or beneficiary, except pursuant to (a) a qualified domestic relations order under [§ ] 414(p) of the [Tax] Code, (b) a domestic relations order entered before January 1, 1985 that the Retirement Board treats as a qualified domestic relations order, or (c) an exception required under [§ ] 401(a)(13) of the [Tax] Code.

Copied to clipboard