Football player's AWW based on actual preseason earnings, not earning capacity
Case name: Farquhar v. New Orleans Saints, No. 08-CA-800 (La. Ct. App. 05/26/09).
The Louisiana Court of Appeal upheld the workers' compensation court's judgment awarding an ex-football player workers' compensation benefits using his actual preseason earnings before his injury to determine his average weekly wage.
What it means:
In Louisiana, a professional football player who is injured before the season begins is entitled to an average weekly wage that is based on his actual earnings during the weeks of preseason involvement before he was released from his contract.
A professional football player with the New Orleans Saints suffered a career-ending knee injury during training camp. He had signed a one-year contract in May 1999 and suffered the injury in August 1999, before the season began. Although his contract was canceled and he never played a game that year, the Saints paid him his entire contract amount of $429,000 plus severance. The player alleged his average weekly wage should be based on the maximum compensation rate because he received his entire salary for 1999. The Saints argued his contract never actually took effect because his injury occurred prior to the beginning of the season and he was never on the active roster for 1999. The Louisiana Court of Appeal agreed with the Saints, finding the contract amount was immaterial to the determination of benefits, as he had performed actual services for the Saints for a little longer than 13 weeks. It affirmed the lower court's decision that his AWW was based on his actual earnings that year.
The Louisiana Court of Appeal stated that the player's AWW should have been determined by dividing his actual wages earned by the number weeks he worked, rather than the maximum compensation rate based on his entire salary. The player argued that the average weekly wage should be calculated using the "true earning capacity" of an NFL football player.
The court also found the player was entitled to supplemental benefits under the law, as he earned less than 90 percent of his preinjury earnings for a total of 144 weeks. However, under a collective bargaining agreement, the Saints were entitled to a 25-week credit, and the Court of Appeal held the player was therefore only entitled to 119 weeks of supplemental earnings.
July 6, 2009
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