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Comp award affirmed for former Philadelphia Eagles player

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Philadelphia Eagles helmet

A professional football player who suffered an injury after his contract expired is entitled to workers compensation disability benefits, a Pennsylvania appeals court ruled.

Victor Abiamiri was a defensive end for the Philadelphia Eagles professional football team in August 2011 when he ruptured his right Achilles tendon during the team’s training camp. Following surgery to repair the injury, Mr. Abiamiri underwent physical therapy with the team’s training staff to heal and strengthen his right foot until he became a free agent in March 2012, court records show.

In April 2012, Mr. Abiamiri ruptured his left Achilles tendon while performing a drill at a weight training facility in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. He did not return to professional football following the injury and surgical repair, according to court documents.

In February 2014, Mr. Abiamiri filed a petition to recover full disability benefits for the period between August 2011 and December 2013 and partial disability benefits ongoing thereafter, along with medical benefits and counsel fees. Mr. Abiamiri asserted that although he was not employed by the Philadelphia Eagles at the time of the second injury, the injury occurred while rehabilitating the original injury that occurred while he was employed by the team. The team denied the second injury was work related, court records show.

A Pennsylvania workers comp judge granted the petition and imposed a 50% penalty on the team on all past-due compensation for violating Pennsylvania’s Workers’ Compensation Act by not filing the proper comp paperwork related to Mr. Abiamiri’s injury. The team appealed to state’s Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board, which affirmed the decision, saying Mr. Abiamiri had met his burden of proving all of the elements necessary to support the award, according to court documents.

A three-judge panel of the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court upheld the board’s decision in an unpublished opinion Monday, after the team filed an appeal saying the earlier decisions were not supported by legally competent expert medical testimony. The panel ruled it is unable to re-weigh evidence or the workers comp judge’s credibility determinations.

“The WCJ summarized all of the testimony and adequately explained his credibility determinations,” the ruling said. “Because this court may not reweigh the evidence or the WCJ’s credibility determinations, and must view the evidence in a light most favorable to the claimant, after a thorough review of the record, we agree that claimant provided the elements necessary to support his claim petition.”

The appeals court also upheld the 50% penalty.