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Workers' compensation award upheld for former football player

When people in Pennsylvania think of a workers' compensation claim, they may think of an injury sustained in a construction accident, a malfunction at a manufacturing plant or a similar situation involving heavy equipment and potentially dangerous conditions. Many of the posts on our blog have focused on such injuries. Professional sports, however, may not immediately come to mind.

Yet depending on the facts of the case, an injured athlete may be eligible for workers' compensation. This week, the Maryland Court of Appeals issued its opinion in the case of former National Football League player Tom Tupa. Now 46 years old, Tupa was on the field warming up prior to a game in 2005 when he slipped to the ground after punting a ball. He immediately experienced acute pain in his back and left the field for treatment. The injury ended Tupa's football career, however, and he filed for workers' compensation in the months after the accident.

Tupa's team and its insurance provider contested the claim, raising objections on three grounds. First, they argued that Tupa's disability had no relation to the harm he suffered on the field during warm-ups. Second, they argued that the injury was not accidental and therefore not covered by the state's workers' compensation law. Third, they argued that Tupa had filed his claim in the wrong state and Maryland lacked jurisdiction to hear it.

The jurisdiction issue was decided in Tupa's favor before trial, and a jury later found for Tupa on the first two points of contention. The team and its insurance provider appealed the verdict, but the appellate court affirmed the lower court's ruling.

Source: Associated Press, "Ex-NFL punter wins case for workers' compensation," Aug. 23, 2012.

• Workers' compensation accidents are not limited to the professions traditionally thought of as dangerous. If you would like more information about our firm, please visit our Bucks County workers' compensation page.

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