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Judge Says Injured NFL Player Can Get Benefits

(CN) - The Miami Dolphins cannot dispute a worker's compensation claim filed by its former wide receiver, Kendall Newson, a magistrate judge ruled in Pittsburgh.

Newson suffered a career-ending injury to his right knee during a preseason game for the Dolphins against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field stadium.

The Dolphins claimed Newson could only seek benefits in Florida under a collective bargaining agreement between the NFL Management Council and the NFL Players Association.

Under Florida law, sports clubs do not have to offer workers' compensation benefits. But the union contract lets players take their claims to an independent arbitration panel for "equivalent" compensation.

But the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania refused to grant an injunction against Newson based on the collective bargaining agreement or his player contract.

Chief U.S. Magistrate Judge Pupo Lenihan said Newson's case was already consolidated with the league's management council claims against retired Dolphins players who had filed for benefits in California. As such, Lenihan said it was up to an arbitrator to resolve contractual claims.

"The threshold question of whether Newson breached any contractual obligation by filing a Pennsylvania workers' compensation claim and proceeding before the Pennsylvania Worker's Compensation Court is indeed a question of contract interpretation covered by the broad arbitration provision of the CBA and currently pending before the arbitrator," the judge said, noting that "there is no indication whatsoever in the pleadings that defendant Newson is not participating the relevant arbitration."

Lenihan also noted that "private contracts cannot effectively waive" the state's "statutorily-enacted public policy regarding workers' compensation benefits."

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