Tynes v. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers: the Placekicker’s Staph Infection Suit Will Continue

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The lawsuit of former NFL placekicker Lawrence Tynes will continue in Florida state court, despite the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ (the defendant) best efforts to dismiss the case on federal preemption grounds. The ruling of U.S. District Judge James S. Moody, Jr. on September 24, 2015, granted Tynes’ motion to remand the case to a state court.  The decision also denied the Bucs’ counterargument that the case should be dismissed due to federal preemption under the Labor Management Relations Act.

In general circumstances, matters arising under the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between the NFL and the NFL Players’ Association must be litigated before the National Labor Relations Board. Here, however, Judge Moody held that Tynes’ claims did not arise under the CBA, and therefore, that the allegations were not subject to federal preemption.

Tynes claimed that the Bucs improperly maintained the sanitary conditions of its training facility, leading the placekicker to contract a career-ending staph infection. He alleged that the Bucs failed to warn him that other players had been infected with staph, and he subsequently contracted the infection from using team soaking tubs.

The Bucs argued before the federal judge that Tynes’ claims were related to the medical treatment he received, which is covered by the CBA.  However, Judge Moody held that the issue of the sanitary condition of the facility is independent from the medical treatment Tynes received.  The judge stated in his decision that “there is no disclaimer in the CBA regarding the conditions of a facility that narrows the scope of a team’s common law duty, nor is there any analogous provision requiring the team to use its ‘best efforts’ to maintain a clean facility.” Accordingly, the judge concluded that the action was not preempted under federal law and that it should continue in state court.  The Bucs now face a $20 million damages claim in Florida state court.

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