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Three Cleveland Browns football players are entitled to workers compensation after an appellate court held that their claims were timely filed.
In Greco v. Cleveland Browns Football Co. LLC, the Ohio Court of Appeals, Eighth District in Cleveland affirmed a trial court’s ruling on Thursday that doctors treating the players could be considered employees under the state’s workers compensation statutes, which applied an exception to the requirements that comp claims be filed within two years of the injury.
John Greco, Joel Bitonio and Scott Solomon were players for the Cleveland Browns who were all injured while playing football. The three were treated by two doctors hired by the Browns to provide medical treatment to players. Under an agreement between the Browns and University Hospitals Health System Inc., the two doctors would act as in-house physicians for the team, with the Browns paying the doctors’ salaries in exchange for the hospital’s right to use the Browns’ trademark name for marketing and promotional purposes.
The three players filed claims with the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation, which the Browns rejected as untimely since they were filed after the two-year statute of limitations. The Industrial Commission of Ohio, however, allowed the claims. The Browns appealed to the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court, which granted summary judgment to the players and a trial court affirmed.
The Cleveland Browns appealed the trial court’s decision, arguing that because the doctors were independent contractors, the two-year statute of limitations applied and the players’ claims were time-barred.
Under Ohio law, workers compensation claims must be filed within two years from the date of injury. However, the statute of limitations does not apply if the employer has elected to pay benefits directly and has provided written notice to the commission or bureau of the specific parts of the body claimed to have been injured, or if the employer has furnished treatment by a licensed physician who works for the employer, noting that providing such treatment does not constitute a recognition of a compensable claim.
The appellate court affirmed the trial court’s decision. The court found that the agreement between the Browns and the physicians created an employer-employee relationship, with the Browns controlling “the manner and means of the physicians’ work” and providing the hospital the use of its trademark in exchange “in lieu of the doctors’ salaries.”
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