What’s Up With The Lawrence Tynes Lawsuit?

Ex-Buccaneer’s kicker Lawrence Tynes has filed a civil lawsuit against the organization. He’s claiming that unsanitary conditions at One Buc Place cause him to contract a MRSA infection in his kicking foot, and that ended his NFL career.

A couple of things:

Can NFL Players get Worker’s Comp?

The first question is whether this lawsuit should be covered under worker’s comp, or whether it can be a negligence suit. There’s a big difference between the two. In a typical negligence case the jury decides both who’s at fault and what the damages are. In a worker’s compensation case liability isn’t an issue. An administrative judge decides what damages should be paid. The amount of damages in worker’s compensation cases is usually far lower than those in negligence cases.

So why do I bring up worker’s comp? Florida law says that worker’s comp is the exclusive remedy for employees who are injured on the job. The idea is that employers and employees entered into an agreement when worker’s comp was put into law. Employees gave up the right to sue their employers in exchange for all workplace accidents and injuries being covered, even if it’s not the employer’s fault.

But Florida law says that professional athletes are not entitled to worker’s comp for injuries they get on the job. There is an exception to this (there always is), which says that if Tynes had been injured not while doing “the kind of work or labor particularly associated” with playing professional football, he would be entitled to worker’s comp. This exception came out of the case of Miles v. Montreal Baseball Club, (remember the Expos?) where Miles, a pro baseball player, tried to get worker’s comp benefits after he was injured at a press party after he dove into the intercoastal waterway. The court held that because the team required him to attend, and because he was injured while doing something not particularly associated with playing baseball, he was entitled to worker’s comp.

In Tynes’ case it looks like this exception won’t apply, because doing training and recovery at One Buc Place are the kind of work “particularly associated” with being a pro football player.

Are the Bucs Responsible for his Toe Infection?

Probably. All Tynes has to show is that, more likely than not, he got the infection at One Bucs Place, and that the Bucs failed to use reasonable care in cleaning or sanitizing the equipment he used. He will also try and show that the Bucs knew, or at least should have known, that other people using the facility had MRSA infections, because they would then need to use extra precautions. Expect both sides to hire experts in the field of infectious diseases to testify at trial if it gets that far. Although Mr. Clean would be the definitive authority on sanitation, he doesn’t exist.

Assuming he Wins, How Much Money will Tynes Get?

People who file personal injury lawsuits (like Tynes) are trying to recoup several different types of damages:

  • Money for medical bills;
  • Money for income or wages they lost as a result of their injuries; and
  • Money for pain and suffering.

According to the news, Tynes is asking for $20 million, mostly for what he says he would have earned in the league if he hadn’t gotten this infection. A couple of issues here:

  • He is 37 now, which is pretty old for an NFL player. The oldest player in the league, who also happens to be a kicker, is Adam Vinatieri at 42.
  • Tynes’ 2013 salary was $905,000.00. Assuming that he would average that number had he not gotten this infection, he’d have to play for 22 more years in order to hit 20 million. Not to throw shade but 59 is pretty old to be in the league, even for a kicker.
  • Claims for lost future earnings are pretty speculative in these kinds of cases. Tynes will have to convince the jury that he would’ve stayed healthy and would have continued to be on a team’s roster if he hadn’t gotten infected. That’s going to be an uphill battle.

If the Bucs Have to Pay Tynes, Does This Cut Into What They can Pay Mariota Winston?

Probably not. I would assume that the Bucs have liability insurance that would cover them for something like this. This means that even if the Bucs lose, any money paid out to Tynes (assuming that it’s under the amount the insurance company will pay) doesn’t come out of the Bucs’ coffers.

So Tynes shouldn’t bank on getting that $20 million, but will probably (maybe) get something.