Marqise Lee Filed $4.5M Lawsuit After Slipping in the NFL Draft

Marqise Lee was meant to go very high in the draft. He had everything NFL scouts could want from a developing college wide receiver to transition into the NFL. Then, in his Junior year, an injury instantly plummeted his seemingly rock-solid claim.

Lee, keenly aware of his limited window to capitalize on his football career, took out an insurance policy. He wanted to make sure that, no matter what, he’d get the big signing bonus he was counting on as WR with first-round potential. The controversy that ensued serves as an example of how difficult it can be for even the players who do make it to the NFL to maximize their earnings potential.

Marqise Lee embedded himself in USC Trojans history

Lee had an incredible college career, cementing his NFL first-round draft pick bona fides, according to Bleacher Report. He earned a starting spot quickly during his 2011 freshman season. He improved in 2012, including a game where he totaled 197 yards on 10 catches, including a touchdown. Any NFL squad in search of a WR would likely go to Lee first.

Then the first major, surgery-level injury marred Lee’s junior year. NBC News reports that Lee suffered a sprained medial collateral ligament in his junior year.

It wasn’t a career-ender, but he knew it was a pivotal moment in his attempt at NFL stardom. His draft chances depended on his recovery, which had the potential to stretch past draft day.

Marqise Lee’s smart career move led to a major lawsuit against his insurance provider

According to Bleacher Report, Lee reacted with great foresight to his first major football injury. He took out an insurance policy with Lloyd’s of London, while fully disclosing the details of his recovery.

The goal was to make sure that alarm over his knee issue wouldn’t harm his earnings if he plummeted in the 2014 NFL draft.

There was a big problem when it came time for Lee to cash in. Lloyd’s, having signed Lee with the details of his USC injury fully public, declined to pay out his claim after he fell to the second round.

It caught the young WR entirely off guard. Even though he made it into the NFL, he went deep into the second round. With no guarantees on how long his career would last, he hoped to depend on his insurance to make up the difference.

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Lloyd’s refused to pay out on Lee’s policy, citing their revised standards for player injuries. According to their policies at the time, Lee’s preexisting injury disqualified him from the payout he hoped for due to falling to the second round in the NFL draft. It makes intuitive sense, in isolation. Why would an insurance company pay a known injured player?

The problem, as Sports Illustrated reports, is that Lee informed Lloyd’s of his injury. It was also public knowledge at the time. His claim, in his lawsuit against the insurance provider, is that he wouldn’t have signed the contract, or paid the $94,000 premium, had he known. Lee sued Lloyd’s over this issue in 2015. The case hasn’t been resolved in public records, but Lee has already received some recompense.

According to Claims Journal, Lloyd received a full refund for his premium. That’s well short of his $4.5 million loss-of-value insurance claim, which is still pending in court. But there are several other claimants emerging in the years since. Lee has his premium back, but whether he’ll recover the full value could depend on discovery processes related to these new cases.