PITTSBURGH- The Miami Dolphins want a federal magistrate in Pittsburgh to nix the workers' compensation claim filed by a player who sustained a career-ending knee injury during a preseason game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field in 2005.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Lisa Pupo Lenihan heard the case involving the Dolphins and former player Kendall Newson on Wednesday, but has yet to rule on it.
The team sued in September, saying it would face irreparable harm if it were ordered to pay the benefits, plus medical expenses, under Pennsylvania law.
The team has an agreement with the NFL players' union to pay benefits similar to those awarded under Florida workers' compensation laws, but players must go through an arbitration process dictated by the current NFL labor contract. The team claims the Pennsylvania claim must be stopped so that arbitration can go forward.
But Newson's attorney tells the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that a looming NFL lockout threatens to leave Newson's claim in limbo.
The union will decertify if the owners lock out the players as expected March 3, meaning any pending "arbitrations will be almost impossible to resolve," said Adam Kaiser, an attorney representing the NFL Players Association in Newson's case.
Newson's workers' compensation attorney, Edward Abes, told the Post-Gazette, which reported on the case Monday, that Newson "has no money."
Newson was a seventh-round draft pick out of Middle Tennessee State in 2002 and was hurt at age 25 before earning a major contract. Newson's career with the Dolphins resulted in two catches for 55 yards, and a single punt return in the six games he played during the 2003 season.
Since then, Newson, who is from Decatur, Ga., has tried but failed to work at a car wash and a nursing home because of his injured knee, Abes said.
If Newson gets workers' comp benefits in Pennsylvania, he can collect up to $716 a week, plus medical expenses related to the injury. In Florida, he would get no more than $651 a week, and his attorneys say Florida-law is less worker-friendly than Pennsylvania's.
A workers' compensation judge has already ruled that the Dolphins' agreement with the union wouldn't prevent her from ruling on Newson's Pennsylvania claim.
Thomas May, a Pittsburgh attorney for the Dolphins, said the team is challenging Newson's workers compensation claim because the team would have difficulty recouping the money if that ruling were later overturned.
--- Information from: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, http://www.post-gazette.com
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)