Former Arkansas running back Rawleigh Williams III is suing Lloyd’s, a major British insurance firm, and claims it purposely slowed the processing of his insurance paperwork and then retroactively wrote in a preexisting condition clause. Now, with Williams’s football career over after a neck injury, the former football player is taking the firm to court.
According to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, the lawsuit was filed on Monday. The defendants are “underwriters at Lloyd’s, International Speciality Insurance, and agent Justin Boeving.” The Williams family’s claims include that Lloyd’s intentionally delayed processing their policy to wait for Williams to sustain another neck injury so as to be able to drop him from their coverage.
In college, high-profile athletes typically take out insurance policies, meant to assist them financially should their intended source of income fall through due to injury. This happens across all major sports, but especially in high-injury sports like football as well as for the lumbering 7-footers of college basketball.
Williams’s case began in 2015, when the then-freshman sustained a major neck injury in a game against Auburn after a defender pulled Williams down by his facemask, popping the disc between his C3 and C4 vertebras out of place. Williams immediately lost feeling in his extremities and had to be carted off the field. The ensuing physical therapy needed to get him back on the field required he wear a neck brace for seven months and be held out of tackle drills for 10 month. Williams came back the next season for a mediocre Arkansas team, running for an SEC-best 1,360 yards and 12 scores in 2016.
Williams and his family began considering a policy after Arkansas officials suggested in “early 2017” that he obtain a permanent disability policy, in light of his successful 2o16 season. According to the Democrat-Gazette, who viewed a copy of the lawsuit, Williams took out an insurance policy with Lloyd’s through Boeving on March 10, 2017 worth $1 million; Boeving allegedly helped him complete the policy on March 13. The lawsuit claims Boeving told the Williams family the policy would take effect on March 10, and it also claims the premium was paid by the Williams family on March 16—the same day a managing director acting on behalf of Lloyd’s signed the policy.
On April 29, just 15 practices into the new year’s workouts, Williams went down again. This time, it was a simple square-up tackle that sent him to the ground. Williams’s lawyer told the Democrat-Gazette that the family provided a voicemail recording of Boeving leaving the following message the same day:
“We have got coverage and everything in force, so no issues are on that. I’m just calling to make sure he’s all right.”
Just a week later, Williams announced his retirement from football, writing a farewell letter to fans in which he admitted that the normalcy of the latest play that harmed his neck scared him enough to prioritize his long-term health. In the minds of Williams and his family, his career was cut short, but his finances were at least in order for the immediate future.
Then, on May 9, Boeving reached out to the Williams family. It was at that time that he revealed Lloyd’s had amended the policy early in May to include an endorsement that freed the firm from covering injuries stemming from the former running back’s “spinal column and adjacent and related structures.” Boeving told him he had 10 days to decide whether he wanted to keep the policy or have his premium returned.
It’s been almost a full year since Williams hit the dirt on the Arkansas practice field. Since then, he’s worked as a student assistant for the Razorbacks and is on track to earn a finance degree. He has also not seen a dime of the money his family used for the premium. Per the Democrat-Gazette, the family is now seeking “payment of the $1 million policy as well as more than $3 million in punitive damages, court costs, attorneys’ fees and statutory damages of 12 percent of the total loss.”