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Ex-OSU standout and Browns player wins NFL workers’ comp case

The recent saga of Tom Tupa, an ex-NFL player seeking to collect workers’ compensation benefits for a work-related injury he sustained on a playing field in 2005, is widely instructive, including in Ohio. The league has teams across the country, including one in Cleveland and Cincinnati, respectively, and Tupa’s story reveals much about how the NFL and its teams view workers’ comp claims and seek to defend against them.

In fact, Tupa has long and enduring ties to Ohio, being a former Ohio high-school star, standout punter and quarterback at Ohio State University and ex-Cleveland Browns’ player.

His injury, though, occurred in Washington, D.C., while he was playing for the Washington Redskins. Tupa suffered a career-ending accidental injury while warming up for a game.

Thus began his long slog to collect for his on-the-job injury. He filed a claim with the Maryland Workers’ Compensation Commission in 2007, which the NFL sought to block on several fronts by contending that the commission lacked jurisdiction, that Tupa’s injury was not accidental and that his disability did not relate to the injury.

The commission decided it did have jurisdiction and could hold a hearing. Prior to doing so, however, the NFL took the matter to court, requesting a jury trial

Maryland jurors subsequently ruled in Tupa’s favor, finding that his injury was accidental and that his disability was connected to the injury.

The league appealed, and late last month Maryland’s highest court upheld the commission and the jury’s finding, ruling that Tupa’s injury occurred “out of and in the course of his employment” and rejecting the NFL’s claim that workers’ comp benefits should be denied because an injury suffered on a football field cannot not be deemed accidental owing to the sport’s rough nature.

As the case illustrates, an employer will sometimes go to great lengths to contest an employee’s legitimate complaint. The NFL argued strenuously against Tupa, contesting jurisdiction, challenging venue and seeking to categorize Tupa’s injury as not related to his employment.

An experienced workers’ compensation attorney can anticipate such challenges and aggressively explore all available options for benefits.

Source: Plain Dealer, “Tom Tupa, former Brecksville High, OSU and Browns player, wins workers comp case for career-ending injury,” Aug. 23, 2012

  • Our experienced personal injury firm provides diligent representation to clients who have sustained on-the-job injuries and are seeking to collect their lawfully entitled workers’ compensation benefits. To learn more, please visit our Cleveland, Ohio, Workers’ Compensation page.