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The Virginia Court of Appeals on Tuesday denied workers compensation benefits to one former Washington Redskins player while granting another player’s disability coverage.
In Hamilton v. Pro-Football Inc., the appeals court in Alexandria, Virginia, dismissed a former football player’s assertion that the state’s Workers Compensation Commission denied him workers comp to “unfairly” punish him for attempting to return to professional football rather than look for other employment.
The player, Raymond Hamilton, contended that he fractured a bone in his right foot on Dec. 18, 2015, while on the practice squad of Ashburn, Virginia-based Pro-Football Inc., better known as the Washington Redskins. He had two surgeries and underwent rehabilitation through mid-January 2016 at the Redskins’ training facilities. However, from February to October 2016 he engaged in various rehabilitation in multiple states varying from an hour a few times a week to no rehabilitation.
On Oct. 3, 2016, Mr. Hamilton began working as a sales representative for an automotive maintenance company, and he sought temporary total disability benefits for the period Dec. 18, 2015, to Oct. 2, 2016. His claim was denied in part due to his alleged failure to prove he marketed his residual work capacity. Mr. Hamilton had a degree from the University of Iowa and had been cut from the rosters of the Dallas Cowboys and Pittsburgh Steelers before he signed a contract to join the Redskins’ practice squad.
A deputy commissioner denied Mr. Hamilton’s request for temporary total disability, noting Mr. Hamilton conceded he was not “actively looking for work” after his injury because he thought he would be going back to play football. The commission agreed with that assessment, holding that Mr. Hamilton was not totally disabled, failed to prove he was undergoing extensive rehabilitation at his employer’s direction, and did not make a “good faith effort” to obtain work.
Mr. Hamilton appealed, but the Virginia Court of Appeals affirmed the commission’s decision, noting the evidence in the record failed to provide any indication that neither the time nor effort required for his rehabilitation prevented him from seeking employment. More significantly, the court said, was Mr. Hamilton’s own testimony that he did not “actively look” for work before getting his sales job in October 2016.
As a result, the appeals court affirmed the commission’s decision, denying Mr. Hamilton temporary total disability benefits.
In a second case, Jones v. Pro-Football Inc., also decided Tuesday by the Virginia Court of Appeals, the court held that a former Redskins football player was entitled to temporary total disability and permanent partial disability benefits stemming from his shoulder injury, but dismissed his argument that the average weekly wage he was paid should have been nearly seven times higher. The player, Tony Jones, was a free agent standard contract player for the Redskins when he dislocated his shoulder in practice on Aug. 23, 2015, and signed an injury settlement agreement with the team.
While he was undergoing physical therapy, he began looking for work opportunities in case he could not return to football, and in January 2018 was awarded total temporary disability benefits. However, Mr. Jones argued that rather than being awarded $522.42 per week, based on a pre-injury weekly wage of $783.63, that his award should be calculated based on the $6,115.38 weekly wage he would have earned under his $318,000 contract. A deputy commissioner held that Mr. Jones’ salary was contingent on surviving preseason cuts and his ability to play regular-season games, and therefore it did not guarantee him that salary, and the full commission agreed with that finding.
The appeals court also found that Mr. Jones’ potential earnings as a football player “were entirely hypothetical” and affirmed the commission’s determination that his weekly wage should be determined by actual pre-injury earnings, not “speculative projections.”
Pro-Football could not be reached for comment.
A former Indianapolis Colts defensive tackle and California resident cannot file a cumulative-injury workers compensation claim in the state because there’s no proof he signed his National Football League contract while in California and he only played two games in the state during his six-year career, the California Court of Appeals ruled Thursday.