Former NFL player wins lawsuit against OrthoCarolina for $650,000

CHARLOTTE, NC (Erin Bacon/The Charlotte Observer) - A Mecklenburg County jury awarded former Baltimore Ravens cornerback Samari Rolle $650,000 in a medical malpractice suit against OrthoCarolina on Friday.

Rolle sued in 2011, claiming OrthoCarolina surgeon Craig Brigham did not properly perform follow-up care after surgery, leading to complications and an early retirement from the NFL. Rolle, who also had played for the then-Tennessee Oilers, was selected for the 2000 Pro Bowl but by 2007 his health had become an issue.

Brigham performed spinal fusion surgery on Rolle in September 2008 to fuse his C3 and C4 vertebra, according to court papers. The surgery went well, but Brigham released Rolle to return to playing for the Ravens too soon, said Rolle's Florida attorney Gary Fox.

Rolle's fusion failed, Fox said, and he had to undergo a second surgery with the team doctor for the Dallas Cowboys at the time.

"As a result of the second operation, he got a good fusion," Fox said. "The bad news was he developed nerve problems in his hand and arm and had to retire."

The case originally was set for trial in April 2013, but Brigham died suddenly outside his apartment a few hours before the trial was to start. A representative from OrthoCarolina said at the time that his death was related to an existing medical condition.

The case was declared a mistrial, and it took 16 months to return to court, Fox said.

Rolle's attorneys asked the jury to award damages based on his salary if he had been able to continue to play in the NFL. The jury decided he would have continued to play one year, and awarded him net damages of $650,000.

Sara Lincoln, OrthoCarolina's attorney, said the company will not seek an appeal.

"Dr. Brigham was an excellent physician, and the jury acknowledged that this was a compromise verdict," she said.