Employment and workers compensation claims are on the rise. As an Atlanta, Georgia business litigation lawyer, Atlanta employment law attorney and Atlanta sports lawyer, I am especially interested in these types of cases that arise out of professional sports situations. The Maryland Court of Appeals has just recently made such a ruling in a breach of contract and workers compensation case involving a former Washington Redskins professional football player. If you, or your Atlanta business are in need of an Atlanta employment lawyer, Atlanta small business attorney or Atlanta business litigation lawyer, contact an Atlanta lawyer to assist you. The Golden Law Firm, LLC can provide you with legal advice regarding your business needs, including breach of contract and related matters. Contact an Atlanta business lawyer for advice and representation.
Pro-Football, Inc. T/A The Washington Redskins, et al., v. Thomas J. Tupa, Jr., involved a claim for workers compensation benefits filed by Tom Tupa, a former Washington Redskins punter. In 2004, Tupa signed a four-year professional football contract with the Redskins. The Redskins' stadium, known as "FedEx Field" is located in Landover, Maryland. Pro-Football, Inc., however, has its corporate offices and its practice facilities in Virginia. In the contract, the parties agreed that any workers compensation disputes would be filed in Virginia, not Maryland, and resolved by the Virginia Workers Compensation Commission.
In August, 2005 during the pre-game warm-up at FedEx Field, Tupa injured his lower back. However, eight months earlier, Tupa had been diagnosed with spondylitis and stenosis, which are lower back conditions. After the pre-game injury and despite a treatment regime during the entire 2005 season, Tupa continued to suffer back pain and in January 2006 was diagnosed with a 90 percent disc collapse. Tupa's career effectively ended with this diagnosis. In March, 2007 Tupa filed a claim for workers compensation benefits with the Maryland Workers Compensation Commission, alleging that his back injury and resulting inability to play football were the result of the August 2005 pre-game warm-up at FedEx field. The Redskins contended, however, that the injury was degenerative in nature, occurring long prior to this incident and that the August 2005 warm-up was simply when this longstanding condition manifested itself. Thus the fight over whether Tupa was injured "on the job" began.
The Maryland Commission ruled in favor of Tupa, finding that the back injury arose out of his employment and that the disability was causally related to his injury. It awarded him partial disability benefits. The decision was appealed and a trial was held. Tupa again won. That decision was appealed and has now reached the Maryland Court of Appeals, which has affirmed the lower courts' decisions in favor of Tupa.
First, the Court of Appeals determined that, despite the contractual provision in Tupa's contract, the matter could be heard in Maryland. The Court determined that any holding that the matter must be heard in Virginia would contravene Maryland's public policy because allowing the matter to proceed in Virginia would have resulted in a ruling against Tupa for benefits he was otherwise entitled to receive. Second, the Court of Appeals agreed that the injury arose out of an "accidental personal injury," namely the incident occurring in August 2005 at FedEx stadium. Tupa's injury occurred out of, and in the course of, his employment. He was warming up for a game and landed awkwardly. Therefore, sufficient evidence was presented to establish that Tupa was entitled to Maryland workers compensation benefits.
This case is a good reminder that choice of forum clauses contained in contracts are not always enforceable. If doing so would contravene the public policy of another state, that state's courts may choose not to enforce the choice of law agreement. In Georgia, we have often seen this applied in the non-compete agreement and restrictive covenant agreement arena.
If you have questions regarding protecting your Company from contract claims, employment law claims, or related matters, contact an Atlanta business litigation attorney, Atlanta employment lawyer, or Atlanta non-compete attorney, at the Golden Law Firm, LLC. Founding member, Peter Golden has significant experience representing parties in business matters. At The Golden Law Firm, LLC we handle Georgia non-compete law, breach of contract claims, employment litigation, business litigation and related matters. Contact an Atlanta business litigation attorney today by calling us at 678-710-8244 or through our website at www. Golden-firm.com. We are located in the Vinings neighborhood of Atlanta, one block from I-285 and easily accessible from throughout metro Atlanta.