Player awarded benefits based on practice wages, not contract salary
Hoffman v. New Orleans Saints, No. 10-CA-391 (La. Ct. App. 01/25/11).
Ruling: The Louisiana Court of Appeal held that an injured professional football player was entitled to temporary total disability benefits, supplemental earnings benefits, and attorney's fees.
What it means: A professional athlete's average weekly wage must be calculated based on the amount actually earned at the time of the injury.
Summary: A professional football player attended team practice, which was voluntary. He broke his ankle during practice, which required two surgeries. Pursuant to a collective bargaining agreement, the player earned $110 per day for practice days. The player's total salary for the season was set by a contract at $175,000. The player was released from the team at the end of the season. For two years, he was unemployed or worked in commission-based jobs. The Louisiana Court of Appeal held that the player was entitled to temporary total disability benefits based on an average weekly wage of $440.
The player argued that his average weekly wage should have been calculated using the total salary listed in his contract rather than the amount he earned during practices. The court disagreed, stating that his average weekly wage must be based on the amount actually earned at the time of the injury.
The court also found that the player was entitled to supplemental earnings for the amount of time he failed to earn 90 percent of his average monthly wage based on the $440 average weekly wage.
The player also argued that he was entitled to penalties and attorney's fees because the team failed to pay him benefits. The court agreed and said the team failed to pay benefits to the player even though he was clearly entitled to benefits. Regardless of the dispute concerning the calculation of average weekly wage, the team could have paid benefits using its own calculation pending the court's decision. The court awarded the player $2,000.
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March 24, 2011
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