PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – A local attorney and his client took on the NFL and won.
They managed to get a $1 billion settlement for former players who suffered concussions while on the job.
Now, a new movie is telling their story.
They’re filming the movie in Pittsburgh and it stars Will Smith. He’s playing Dr. Bennet Omalu — a former assistant Allegheny County coroner.
Together, he and Pittsburgh lawyer Jason Luckasevic took on the National Football League over concussions and won.
“Two young people being naive enough to realize what we were up against, but the end game is Will smith is playing him in a movie and we just resolved the biggest case, probably bigger than big tobacco,” Luckasevic said.
He’s referring to the $1 billion settlement the league is paying to former players who have suffered brain damage as a result of concussions.
It was Omalu who performed the autopsy on Steeler great Mike Webster, who had become homeless and disoriented before he died in 2003. Examining Webster’s brain, Omalu discovered something called CTE – tangles known as chronic traumatic encepholopathy.
Omalu examined the brains of other football players and concluded that repetitive blows had caused CTE, which is a specific kind of dementia.
However, the league derided his findings.
“And I said, ‘Benet you’re really getting beat up in the paper, you ought to do something about it.’ And he looked at me with his big grin and he said, ‘Jason you’re a good lawyer, you do something about it,” Luckasevic said.
That’s just what he did.
In 2006, Luckasevic, representing 70 players and using Omalu’s research, filed the first suit against the NFL and demanded that the league recognize CTE and compensate those affected. .
Over the years, other attorneys – representing other players filed suit – and last year, the NFL agreed to pay $1 billion in long-term care.
Though a major victory, the NFL still does not recognize a specific relation between CTE and football.
Luckasevic represents players such as Tony Dorsett, who continue to fight the NFL in the courts.
“The terms of the deal were wrong because the deal forgets what the case was about. The case was about Bennet Omalu finding that Mike Webster had CTE and the NFL covering that up for decade,” Luckasevic said.
Luckasevic and his Fifth Avenue firm have yet to receive a dime for their work. Even if his future suit comes to nothing, he said he and Omula have already made their impact.
“If nothing else comes of this, I’m very grateful to bring this issue to national attention for any contact sport. So, parents can make an informed decision, so children can be treated properly and that lives can be saved as a result of this lawsuit,” Luckasevic said.