Tampa Bay Buccaneers Move to Dismiss Expert in Negligence and Fraud Claims

On February 7, 2018, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers filed a motion to dismiss a lawsuit brought by former player, Lazarius Pep Levingston. Levingston sued the team and its Director of Football Operations, Mike Greenburg, for negligence and fraud, alleging that the team concealed the extent of Levingston’s injures in order to give Levingston a smaller settlement. In August 2013, Levingston suffered a neck injury in a pre-season football game. The team informed Levingston that he had a “cervical strain/sprain, thoracic sprain/contusion, and shoulder contusion.” He was released from the team and was given a $30,000 settlement. According to the motion, he agreed to discharge all claims arising from his employment and medical care.

Levingston tried to rehabilitate and continue playing football, but in May or June 2016, after a failed physical examination with the Detroit Lions, Levingston alleged that he learned for the first time that he had multiple cervical disc herniations. Levingston claimed that these injuries were not disclosed by the Buccaneers at the time of the settlement. Levingston claimed that as a result of his injury, he was entitled to a sum greater than $30,000 “pursuant to team, league, and/or union guidelines and/or bylaws. He claimed that he “should have been given game and/or season credits and received monies, benefits and/or an NFL/NFL PA/union pensions.”

The Buccaneers argued that the suit should be dismissed because the NFL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) has provisions that govern the negligence and fraud claims. Under section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act (LMRA), state-law claims, including state tort claims, are preempted by the CBA if they arise from the CBA or require the interpretation of the CBA. According to the motion, Levingston’s negligence claim requires Levingston to establish that the Buccaneers assumed, and then breached, a duty of care. However, the scope of the duty of care owed to Levingston cannot be determined until the CBA is interpreted to define the duty of care, thus the negligence claim is preempted by the CBA. Also, according to the motion, Levingston’s fraud claim requires Levingston to show that the Buccaneers were under a duty to disclose the information to Levingston. However, the scope of the duty to disclose cannot be determined until the CBA is interpreted to define the scope of duty to disclose, thus the fraud claim is also preempted by the CBA.

Tampa Bay argues that all of Levingston’s claims are subject to the arbitration provisions of the CBA, as such, his suit should be dismissed by the court.

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