Former lineman Lynch files suit

Case argues ex-player denied full benefits

Pro football

June 28, 2007|By Jeff Barker | Jeff Barker,Sun Reporter

The attorney who helped the estate of late Pittsburgh Steelers center Mike Webster win a 2005 pension victory filed suit in Baltimore yesterday on behalf of former Houston Texans offensive lineman Ben Lynch.

The suit was not filed against the NFL itself, but rather the league's retirement and disability plan.

Cy Smith, a partner at the Baltimore law firm Zuckerman Spaeder alleges in the federal court suit that Lynch was improperly denied full disability benefits because plan administrators claimed his disabilities were not the result of an "active" football injury.

The suit says Lynch, 34, suffered an "on-the-field injury" that ended his career. It said his knee was seriously hurt in a 2003 preseason game, that he had a staph infection during his recovery and that he now suffers "crippling pain in his leg, lower back and neck."

"This is a guy who graduated from Cal-Berkeley with a degree in business administration and now can't work," Smith said in an interview.

The suit asks the court to order the retirement and disability plan to provide Lynch with an unspecified amount of "total and permanent" disability payments.

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said he wasn't familiar with the suit and had no comment.

The suit was filed one day after Smith appeared before a congressional committee and described how Webster's survivors won significant new benefits three years after his death. Webster had qualified for some benefits previously, but his estate got more than $1.5 million from a judge's ruling in 2005, Smith said.

jeff.barker@baltsun.com

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