Decory Bryant case: Why did it take UGA so long to do the right thing?

The folks at Butts-Mehre botched the handling of the Decory Bryant case. (University of Georgia)

The folks at Butts-Mehre botched the handling of the Decory Bryant case. (University of Georgia)

The news in the Athens Banner-Herald that the legal battle between the UGA Athletic Association and former football player Decory Bryant finally has been settled for $400,000 after more than five years prompts one big question: What took them so long?

Bryant had sued the athletic association because he said it was the athletic association’s fault he was denied an insurance policy that would have paid him as much as $500,000 after a neck injury ended his playing career in 2003.

It came out in documents filed in the case that the player had asked for the policy but an athletic association administrator failed to turn in the paperwork on time. But in December, Clarke County Superior Court Judge Lawton Stephens had dismissed Bryant’s suit, ruling that while the athletic association is a private corporation, it is legally an arm of the state and therefore falls under the doctrine of sovereign immunity.

Bryant’s attorney, Hue Henry, had planned to appeal, but that’s moot now that the athletic association has settled.

Ed Tolley, the athletic association’s lawyer, told the Banner-Herald that Mark Richt and UGA athletic officials wanted to pay for Bryant’s medical bills and rehabilitation costs all along. “The athletic association never intended not to work out some kind of monetary agreement with Decory Bryant,” Tolley said.

I know that part of the delay was the athletic association and Fireman’s Fund Insurance Co. went to court over who would have to pay legal costs in the case. But the bottom line is that if the athletic association intended all along to take care of Bryant, why make him wait five years and go through a court case? Why didn’t they just pay him up front? I’m sure any underlying legal/liability isues could have been taken care of in a simple settlement five years ago: The athletic association agrees to pay and the player agrees not to sue.

Instead, the athletic association did it the hard way and ended up looking like it didn’t care about the player.

It’s not as if UGA’s athletic association is hurting for money. And while there might not have been a specific legal obligation for the athletic association to pay Bryant’s medical bills, there was a definite moral obligation to take care of the young man. The athletic association makes millions of dollars off these kids; the least it can do is make sure they’re taken care of if they’re permanently damaged in some way while playing for the school.

As the frequent Bulldog Club solicitations seeking donations from fans remind us, “UGA student athletes need your support.”

That’s a sentiment the folks at Butts-Mehre should take to heart as well.

BASEBALL AND CHANCE RETURN TO ATHENS

David Perno’s Diamond Dogs, who went 2-2 last weekend in a mini tournament with Baylor and Duke in Texas, play their home opener today at 5 p.m. against Presbyterian at Foley Field (if the weather cooperates).

The best thing coming out of the first weekend of play was that sophomore center fielder Zach Cone hit .688 for the weekend (11-for-16), including hitting for the cycle in last Saturday’s loss to Duke, making him the first Bulldog to do that in six seasons. With most of Georgia’s big bats from last season now departed, the rise of Cone at the plate is welcome news.

Freshman infielder Chance Veazey, paralyzed from the waist down in a motor scooter accident last October, will be on hand at today’s game and will be introduced along with his teammates.

Fans attending games at Foley Field this season will have an opportunity to contribute to the Prayers for Chance fund set up for Veazey, who is now completing fall class work at home and plans to return to UGA fulltime next year and work with the baseball program. Fans are encouraged to contribute a dollar to the fund each time they attend a Bulldog home game. The Dogs drew more than 93,000 fans last year at Foley Field and have set a goal of raising $100,000 for Veazey.

The team is wearing a special “CV” logo on its uniforms and helmets in honor of Veazey this season. And a limited edition Georgia baseball team cap with the “CV” logo patch will be given to the first 500 fans this season who make a minimum donation of $20. The UGA Diamond Darlings will be outside the ballpark at each game this year collecting donations until the fourth inning. After that, they will be at a table at the end of the grandstand on the first base side of the stadium. Cash and checks will be accepted. Checks should be made out to “Prayers for Chance Fund.”

Go Dogs! GO CHANCE!

96 comments Add your comment

Bill Lumbergh

February 24th, 2010
10:50 am

Blindog

February 24th, 2010
10:53 am

Thank God baseball season is finally here…OH HELL YEAH !!!!!

Bill Lumbergh

February 24th, 2010
10:55 am

I wonder how much of Decory’s settlement goes to court and his legal team.

So, if they intended to do the “right” thing, why take it to court? Why put this man through the ringer?

UGA should get Hoke Wilder to reimburse the Athletic Association since it was his mistake. But that would require Hoke to take ownership of his actions. (Don’t know how much longer he’ll be around though. That liver has got to be shot!)

Fridawg

February 24th, 2010
10:57 am

I’m sure they were worried about creating some precedent. Though this case was pretty clear, I bet the lawyers were concerned about future cases. In the end, every player should be insured from day one. I’m glad Bryant got some $$ support. Damn good dawg! (Oh, and Hoke Wilder is a good guy. I had him for a class, and he certainly isn’t the kind of guy to try to pull a quick one.)

Billy O

February 24th, 2010
11:04 am

Come on Bill, anytime lawyers are involved, things do not get done quickly. Just be glad that this infortunate situation has been resovled.

Bill Lumbergh

February 24th, 2010
11:08 am

Bill -

I understand. I just think the AA should take the position that we’re glad that this has been settled and now both parties can move forward. Not the stance that “The athletic association never intended not to work out some kind of monetary agreement with Decory Bryant.”

It insults everyone’s intelligence on what was truly the bottom line.

how2fish

February 24th, 2010
11:12 am

Old Dawg

February 24th, 2010
11:15 am

There’s a real reason why the original rules of the Georgia Colony included “no lawyers.”

Frank Lane

February 24th, 2010
11:18 am

I agree with you. I am embarrassed that it took so long. I have found in dealings with the University that they always fight to do the wrong thing. I have no respect for the ethics of my own University. I put them in the same camp with the government. Now it seems that we can throw the Athletic department into the same camp.

I stick with the players but am disgusted with the school.

BigGAdawg

February 24th, 2010
11:40 am

So what is the situation now? Are all members of the team covered by a policy of this type and if not why? It would send a good message to recruits that the AA will pay for such a policy (in exchange for a waiver on lawsuits.) All the players would know that they have some protection in case of such a serious unfortunate accident. The same should be the case with all sports where serious injury is possible, ie. baseball, basketball, soccer, gymnastics, etc.

Mike Bobo

February 24th, 2010
11:42 am

Bill,
Change your picture! You are scaring the children.

Paul in RDU

February 24th, 2010
11:47 am

Bill – I’m glad to see the case settled and Harris receive some money.
I think a better question than “why did it take so long”? is why did UGAA settle now? The idealist would say they always wanted to do the right thing all along but were constrained by the lawyers. The cynic would say that they were terrified of what could happen in appeal – notably the loss of “sovereign immunity”. Must be nice to have a court decision on file that says you can’t be sued.

Bryan G.

February 24th, 2010
11:54 am

Paying Decorey was the right thing to do. I agree that it’s sad that it took 5-6 years after he filed suit, though.

Observe & Report

February 24th, 2010
11:57 am

Well, that’s a dumb question. Nothing involving lawyers gets done quickly. They bill by the hour and take 2 hours to watch a 30 minute sitcom!

SEC East Headlines – 2/24/10 « MrSEC.com

February 24th, 2010
11:59 am

[...] claimed UGA officials should have insured him against a career-ending injury.8.  This writer/fan wonders why Georgia took so long to cough up $400,000 and do the right thing.9.  A quick check of the numbers shows that Devan [...]

Starring Kam Fong as Chin Ho

February 24th, 2010
12:20 pm

Where is the idiot that has been posting “it will cost Ga 5,000,000.00″ to settle this? Haters never come back to eat crow

Tampa 2

February 24th, 2010
12:27 pm

Recruits beware of Georgia

1eyedJack

February 24th, 2010
12:29 pm

A Lawyer will do anything to win a case, sometimes he will even tell the truth

VAdawg

February 24th, 2010
12:52 pm

I think that the reason that this took so long was the University was worried about paying a boatload of punitive damages. I think you can take Tolley’s word that the University was always willing to pay for medical costs, but I’m sure the University was not quite as interested in paying however much Bryant’s attorney was seeking in punitives. Furthermore, I think the reason that Bryant’s lawyers was willing to settle now is that the immunity rationale seems pretty vulnerable for reversal. Legal matter can take a long time; i don’t think this should be interpreted as the AA not wanting to pay Bryant. I think we can see it as the AA not wanting to pay Bryant’s attorney.

SOGADOG

February 24th, 2010
12:53 pm

Bill,

You dont have enough information to pass judgment on the Athletic Association. Was Bryant and his attorneys willing to settle for a reasonable amount before his case was dismissed? Remember, Bryant sued for the 500K AND punitive damages. Claims for punitive damages rarely have any merit and are used to inflate the value of what should be a simple contract case. I believe the AA was truely willing to help Bryant given the fact they settled the case after it was dismissed. Why else would you settle a case you are winning?

gdawginkalamazoo

February 24th, 2010
1:35 pm

Paul in RDU, VADawg and SOGADOG, hit the nail on the head. It is all about the precedent on this one and the punitive damage claim. Can’t start that ball rolling or it will move downhill real fast. Not only for UGA but for all of college sports. Nobody makes these kids play college football or sports, it is voluntary. There’s a risk inherent with every choice that you make, some down the line you have to accept that. That said, it would be nice for the AA to have in place the insurance policies for every athlete.

In and outs of litigation

February 24th, 2010
1:39 pm

One never knows the full extent of why a suit is filed or by whom or what for. Too many cooks in the kitchen is the likely culprit. Glad the kid gets some $$. Unfortunately the shining knight lawyer for the player ( unless I am wrong ) will get 50% if not more.

Lawyers are behind most of all the issues in the USA anyway ………that is why Congress is such a trainwreck. They are all lawyers and the worst is Barry Soetero.

Go Dogs and Congrats Mr Bryant. You were a good player.

KJ

February 24th, 2010
1:52 pm

Well, if nothing else, that 12344 guy will finally stop posting his drivel. One troll down, too many to go.

ugaaccountant

February 24th, 2010
1:54 pm

Before too many of ya’ll start talking about UGA springing for insurance for every player, please think for just 1 second about the cost. That lovely profit the AA turns would disapear in a second if you start doing that.

gdawginkalamazoo

February 24th, 2010
1:59 pm

Isn’t the CEO of AFLAC an alum?

Did DeCorey finish his degree?

Paul in RDU

February 24th, 2010
2:20 pm

gdawdinkalamazoo – I agree with the issue of avoiding the precedent, but couldn’t the UGAA have come to the same agreement 5 years and $1,000’s ago? Of course, it depends on whether Decorey (and his lawyer) was willing to settle before going to trial.
The UGAA is now in a great situation – they have sovereign immunity.

Paul in RDU

February 24th, 2010
2:21 pm

Oops – typo – meat gdawginkalamazoo

Win P

February 24th, 2010
2:48 pm

Glad the kid, his folks & his lawyer(s) got some money.
There is a reason the charter creating the Georgia Coloney prohibited Lawyers. Prehaps the Atheletic Dept. was taking the final paynment money from the absentmineded paper shuffler’s salary. It seems doing the right thing often gets over riddened by how much will it cost now and/or later.

Denver Dog

February 24th, 2010
2:55 pm

Maybe becuase it wasn’t the right thing to do.

Paul in RDU

February 24th, 2010
3:05 pm

KJ @1:52 – the trolls will always be with us
m, ramble on, yellow fuzz, 30-24, GT is a 6th rate program, buLLdawg, etc, etc, etc

1eyedJack

February 24th, 2010
3:11 pm

KJ, I wouldn’t bet on that. That puke was hoping this would put a major hurt on UGA. He ain’t going to be satisfied with 500K. Expect more crap, probably under a new name.

ugaaccountant

February 24th, 2010
4:25 pm

Win P – This isn’t Geico. Real insurance companies don’t write 500k insurance contracts in 15 minutes.

Law stuff.

February 24th, 2010
4:31 pm

The legal process is rather slow.

End of story.

Gen Neyland

February 24th, 2010
4:33 pm

Paul in RDU : Should have quit while you were, well, never mind…Meet, not meat. Just call him zoo. He’ll come a running…Good to see some kind of settlement come of this.

Gen Neyland

February 24th, 2010
4:36 pm

Paul in RDU : Look at me goof up the goof up. Pants on the ground..!

Observor

February 24th, 2010
5:48 pm

Is there anything the bulldogs can do right?

On top of this it looks like even former dogs like Knowshow are backing to their ways of bar brawling, punching 18 year old freshman, etc. I guess its easier for Knowshow to punch an 18 year old freshman than to take on a Brandon Spikes or Rolando McClain. Ahhhh yes. I still remember Mr. Spikes pile driving Knowshow into the turf to set the tone for arsekicking number 17 of the last 20.

NJDAWG

February 24th, 2010
6:04 pm

Understand everyone’s criticism, but without a “lawyer” this young man would have recovered nothing. The only reason it settled at this point is the AA didn’t want an appellate decision finding it a non-public entity. I would assume they had hoped the case would have been dismissed on other grounds, so this would not be an issue on appeal.

NJDAWG

February 24th, 2010
6:05 pm

As for the delay, insurance companies make money the longer they hold onto it.

lanier

February 24th, 2010
6:25 pm

don’t think rival schools won’t use this in recruiting. every momma whose son is considering Ga will get the full story on this joke. why does my school’s athetlic dept keep stepping on their cranks

jerry

February 24th, 2010
6:41 pm

Moreno is a punk/thug.

Junkyard Hawg

February 24th, 2010
6:43 pm

Poor kid. His posse will help him blow thru that cash in no time, then he’s back to square one with nothing but a worthless Uga Housing degree that they shuttle most of their players thru. Hope they’re hiring at WalMart.

poopdawg

February 24th, 2010
7:45 pm

Can somebody please fill in some of the blanks? How is Decory doing now ? Did Decory pay for the insurance, and the athletic dept failed to do the required paperwork?

UA Alum92

February 24th, 2010
8:50 pm

My God. Sad. What a horrible way to treat one of your own. I’m pretty sure that by this point he would be willing to settle for anything. Why did the “right thing” take five years?

I also want to know how he’s doing now. Does anyone have a link?

Virginia Dog

February 24th, 2010
8:56 pm

Bill – with all due respect who are you to question the actions of the university in this situation. There are so many issues that have to be considered and not sure that you are qualified to make a judgement. The bottom line, the university had to prove innocense from a legal standpoint, but then show concern and compassion for one of their own. To state that the athletic department has plenty of money and they should have done something in the beginning….that could have been devastating. $85M is nothing in today’s courts. A case like this could absolutely break the athletic department. Stick to sports….which I am not sure you are the end all for opinions in that area either…and stay out of the universities lawsuits.

.

February 24th, 2010
9:14 pm

Starring Kam Fong as Chin Ho

“February 24th, 2010
12:20 pm
Where is the idiot that has been posting “it will cost Ga 5,000,000.00″ to settle this? Haters never come back to eat crow”

Yeah! Where is that slimey baztard? Probably hiding out on the Tech blog boo hooing. Fricking L O S E R Richard Cranium

are you kidding me?

February 24th, 2010
9:31 pm

I think Judge Stephens would have been embarrassed by the appeal and resulting overturning of his decision. Sounds like home cooking to me.

Diamond Dog's Parole Officer

February 24th, 2010
9:34 pm

If Coach Richt wanted to take care of Decory all along, why didn’t he ever say anything? Why didn’t he make a plea with the alumi or media to do the right thing?

He didn’t because he’s not willing to stand up for his players. What’s he going to tell the parents of future players, I’ll raise your boy to be a strong Christian man but I will not stand up to the administration or anyone that can jeopordize my current employment. I’m nothing but a lap dog of the administration. But your son is a 4 star talent. Come and play for me. It will be great unless you need someone to stand up for your child.

Diamond Dog's Parole Officer

February 24th, 2010
9:39 pm

Forget Staring Kam Fong… Where’s CMR? I wish someone in the Atlanta media would have the balls to ask him why he never spoke up for this kid. CMR recruited him. Why didn’t he speak up for him? This is a guy who sells his image as a credible, stand up kinda guy.

are you kidding me?

February 24th, 2010
9:41 pm

SOGADOG Maybe you settle a case because you know that the judge’s decision would be reversed on appeal with further embarassment for the university(and the judge). Also it leaves the issue unresolved in future cases as to whether the AA is a (cough) government agency or arm.

Diamond Dog's Parole Officer

February 24th, 2010
9:45 pm

Tolley specifically put CMR’s name in play… Why doesn’t he comment now?

Yeah. Tell parents that you’re going to take care of their kids. That you’ll always look out for them. Actions speak louder than words.