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Players 2, Redskins 0 in workers’ comp disputes

In a second loss for the Washington Redskins in as many days, the Maryland Court of Appeals found former wide receiver Darnerian McCants was employed primarily in Maryland because that is where the team’s home games are played.

The decision means that McCants is eligible for workers’ compensation under Maryland law, even though the Maryland Workers’ Compensation Commission ruled otherwise on his claims for injuries sustained in Philadelphia, Buffalo and Virginia in 2003 and 2004.

The Redskins argued that the case belonged in Virginia because the players spend nearly all their time at the team’s training and practice facilities there.

The Court of Appeals disagreed.

“The purpose of a football player’s employment with a professional football team is to play in professional football games…,” Judge Mary Ellen Barbera wrote for the unanimous court. “Put another way, professional football organizations do not sign ‘skilled football players’ so those players can lift weights and watch game film. The players are signed, and required to attend practice in Virginia, so they can perform well in games to achieve wins and earn revenue for the team.”

Barbera’s opinion relies in part on the Court of Special Appeals’ decision for former Redskins punter Tom Tupa, which the Court of Appeals affirmed on Wednesday.

Benjamin T. Boscolo, of ChasenBoscolo in Greenbelt, represented both Tupa and McCants. David O. Godwin Jr., of Godwin, Erlandson, MacLaughlin, Vernon & Daney LLC in Ellicott City, represented the Redskins in both actions.

“After yesterday’s decision [for Tupa], the question of out-of-state injuries was the last remaining jurisdictional issue,” said Boscolo. Godwin could not be reached for comment.

Tupa sustained his career-ending back injury in 2005 at FedEx Field in Landover. McCants filed claims for six injuries, only one of which occurred at FedEx Field.

The Workers’ Compensation Commission found it only had jurisdiction over the home-game injury. The Court of Special Appeals reversed that ruling and the Redskins sought review by the top court, which heard argument in May.

Thursday’s decision sends the case back to the commission so it can assess McCants’ claims for the out-of-state injuries.

McCants, who grew up in Maryland, was drafted by the Redskins in 2001 and played for the team through the 2004 season. He joined the Philadelphia Eagles for the 2005 season, after which he retired.

The case is Pro-Football Inc. t/a The Washington Redskins et al. v. McCants, No. 116, September Term 2011; RecordFax #12-0823-20 (21 pages).