Professional football players are employees who work for wages much like others employed at FedEx Field. The report this week that the Washington Redskins have to pay workers’ compensation benefits to former kicker Tom Tupa, was of interest because of the jurisdictional questions involved in the litigation. According to the Washington Examiner, Tupa claimed to have hurt his back warming up at FedEx Field in 2005. The Maryland Court of Appeals upheld a 2009 Prince George’s County Circuit Court jury’s award to Tupa, who says he injured his lower back before a Redskins preseason game at the team’s Landover stadium. Pro-Football Inc., the corporation that operates the Washington Redskins, appealed the jury award by arguing that there’s no connection between Tupa’s 2005 injury and any ongoing disability he still claims.
Tupa has not played football since hurting his back; the punter has testified that he still needs back surgery. "It is undisputed that he is physically unable to punt in the NFL," the appeals court wrote. Court records state that the Prince George’s County jury awarded Tupa just over a year’s worth of disability benefits. The disabled kicker originally filed a claim with the Maryland Workers’ Compensation Commission in 2007 requesting benefits, the documents state. The Redskins were ordered by the commission to pay partial disability as well as medical expenses according to the Examiner’s coverage.
When the team appealed the decision, court documents show that the NFL team argued that Maryland didn’t have the jurisdiction to award Tupa workers’ compensation because he was hired to play in Virginia, where the team’s headquarters and practice field are located. But the Maryland appeals court was not swayed, pointing out that game days are in Maryland: "It is clear that the purpose of Tupa’s employment was to play in games, not to practice."