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Brumm v. Bert Bell NFL Retirement Plan

United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
995 F.2d 1433 (1993)


Donald Brumm (plaintiff) was a professional football player in the National Football League (NFL) for nearly 10 years. During that time, Brumm suffered a number of injuries to his back and knees. Following his retirement from the NFL, Brumm worked as a truck driver. In 1977, Brumm suffered a back injury as a result of a highway accident while driving his truck. Brumm’s treating physician noted that Brumm had a pre-existing back condition from his football career called traumatic spondylolisthesis, a forward displacement of one vertebra over another. Thereafter, Brumm was unable to work at all due to his back pain, and he was awarded Social Security benefits. Brumm also applied for additional benefits from the Bert Bell NFL Retirement Plan (Bell Plan) (defendant). The plan provided two kinds of benefits to “totally and permanently disabled” former NFL players: (1) Level 1 Benefits of $4,000 per month if the disability was due to a football injury and (2) Level 2 Benefits paid if the total disability “resulted from other than a football injury.” Although the Bell Plan had determined that Brumm’s injury was at least partially connected to his time playing football, a Bell Plan arbitrator had ruled in a different case that Level 1 benefits were only to be distributed to a player who suffered the disability from one identifiable injury and became permanently disabled “within a reasonable time after leaving football.” All other cases warranted Level 2 benefits. Brumm filed suit challenging the ruling and the district court granted the Bell Plan’s motion to dismiss the suit. Brumm appealed.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Arnold, J.)

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