Darren Sharper v New Orleans Saints (2014) H&FLR 2015-5

Louisiana Court of Appeal (Fourth Circuit)

22 October 2014

Coram: Belsome, Bonin and Dysart JJ

Appearing for the Plaintiff: Frank A Bruno
Appearing for the Defendant: Christopher J Kane and Gerard J Gaudet (of Adams & Reese)

Catchwords: Louisiana – workers compensation – American Football – professional athlete – claim – payments – time limit.

Facts: The plaintiff was a professional athlete employed by the defendant between 2009 and 2011.  In the 2009-2010 football season he sustained a left knee injury in the course of play.  He underwent treatment and was re-signed by the defendant for the 2010-2011 football season.  The defendant classed him “partially unable to perform” and paid him his full salary. During that season he ultimately returned to play.  He was not resigned by the defendant following the 2010-2011 season and formally retired from professional football in November 2011.  On 14 December 2011 he submitted a claim for workers compensation.

Louisiana Revised Statute 23:1209 A (1) provides that –

In case of personal injury … all claims for payments shall be forever barred unless within one year after the accident … the parties have agreed upon the payments to be made under this Chapter, or … a formal claim has been filed.

The plaintiff’s claim was rejected by Louisiana’s Office of Workers’ Compensation on the basis that his claim was ‘prescribed’ (that is, had been lodged out of time) because it was lodged more than 12 months after the injury was sustained and the running of the time limit was not delayed by the payment of compensation payments.  The plaintiff appealed.

Held: dismissing the appeal, that although there were games in the 2010-2011 season where the plaintiff did not play, he attended practices and games and took part in meetings and rehabilitation, all of which was work he was required to perform under his contract and for which he was paid his full salary.  Accordingly the salary he was paid consisted of earned wages and not payment in lieu of compensation.

Dobler v United Fidelity & Guaranty Co, 508 So.2d 176 (La. App. 4th Cir., 1987) and Jones v New Orleans Saints, 800 So.2d 1025 (La. App. 5th Cir., 2001), considered.

Judgment

The Court’s judgement is available here.