By Steven Stamps, of The Law Office of Ricky D. Green, PLLC
The Court of Appeals of Ohio, Tenth Appellate District, Franklin County, has upheld a decision of a magistrate that a former Cleveland Browns player’s 2005 football injury was a lost time workers’ compensation claim.
Ryan Pontbriand, was drafted by the Cleveland Browns in the fifth round of the 2003 NFL draft. Pontbriand, a long snapper, played in all 16 games in the 2003 and 2004 NFL seasons. Pontbriand suffered a football injury to his lower back on November 27, 2005. The injury was diagnosed as a large central and right sided herniation at L5-S1. Pontbriand underwent a right sided L5-S1 microdiskectomy on December 6, 2005. The injury and subsequent surgery caused Pontbriand to miss the final five games of the 2005 NFL season. The Browns paid Pontbriand’s salary during the 2005 season. His contract specified that salary continuation would be deemed an advance on workers’ compensation benefits. Pontbriand returned to the Browns to play all 16 games from the 2006 through 2010 seasons and was named to the Pro Bowl in 2007 and 2008. Pontbriand was released by the Browns 11 games through the 2011 NFL season and did not play another regular season NFL game.
On May 30, 2013, Pontbriand filed an application for a determination of percentage of permanent partial disability. The Browns objected, claiming that Pontbriand was beyond the six-year statute of limitations for a medical only claim. Several levels of administrative appeals determined that Pontbriand was actually subject to a 10-year statute of limitations because his claim was a lost time claim. The Browns argued that Pontbriand’s claim was not a lost time claim because Pontbriand never received temporary total disability (TTD).
In adopting the magistrate’s decision, the Court of Appeals wrote, “Nor has the club provided any authority to support its argument that an application for, or receipt of, TTD compensation is essential to the determination of a lost time claim. The commission found that Pontbriand was statutorily entitled to receive TTD because of his temporary inability to return to his former position of employment. The club had continued to pay Pontbriand under his contract. That Pontbriand never requested TTD nor provided a physician’s certification in support of TTD is of no consequence.”