Longtime-NFL punter Tom Tupa is eligible for workers compensation for a career-ending back injury he suffered while warming up for a preseason game in 2005 at FedEx Field while playing for the Washington Redskins, Maryland's highest court ruled on Wednesday. The court rejected the idea that football injuries should not be considered accidental because of the rough nature of the sport.
Tupa's injury happened "out of and in the course of (his) employment," the Maryland Court of Appeals said in its 16-page opinion.
"He was warming up for a game when he landed awkwardly and thereafter sought immediate medical treatment," Judge John Eldridge wrote in the opinion. "Ample evidence was presented to show that Tupa suffered a compensable accidental injury during the course of his employment."
The team and insurers argued that Tupa's injury was not an accidental personal injury within the meaning of Maryland's workers' compensation law.
The court rejected that argument.
"I don't think that clubs are now able to argue that, since football is a hazardous employment, players don't get workers' compensation benefits," said Benjamin Boscolo, Tuba's attorney.
The 46-year-old Tupa played 18 seasons in the NFL for seven teams from 1988 to 2005. He played no games for the Redskins after the 2005 injury, which happened in Landover, Md.
The team and insurers argued that the Maryland Workers' Compensation Commission did not have jurisdiction over Tupa's claim, because he was contractually bound to bring it in Virginia, where the Redskins are headquartered. The court, however, cited case law that found Maryland's workers' compensation law can apply to an employee's claim, despite language in a contract saying otherwise.
An NFL spokesman says the league hasn't seen the lawsuit and couldn't comment. A portion of the collective bargaining agreement does deal specifically with the filing of worker's compensation claims.