A state appeals court has ruled against embattled former New Orleans Saints safety Darren Sharper in his bid to receive workers’ compensation from his former team.
A three-judge panel of the 4th Circuit Court of Appeal, upholding a lower court’s ruling, said this week that Sharper waited too long to file his claim seeking supplemental earnings benefits. The panel pointed to a Louisiana law that says workers’ compensation claims “shall be forever barred” unless filed within a year of an accident.
The case turned on a dispute over whether the money Sharper earned after hurting his knee in 2009 should be considered regular wages or so-called payments in lieu of compensation. Sharper, who retired in late 2011, contended the deadline for filing his claim had been pushed back under state law because his earnings while sidelined actually counted as workers’ compensation, entitling him to further benefits.
“Mr. Sharper should be awarded supplemental earnings benefits because the knee injury he sustained prevented him from performing the singular object of his employment: to play football, and he has proven his inability to earn at least 90 percent of his pre-injury wage,” Sharper’s attorney, Frank Bruno, argued in court filings.
Christopher Kane, an attorney for the Saints, told the appellate judges last month that Sharper was trying to be treated differently from any other worker in the state by seeking both his full salary and workers’ compensation benefits.
“This is not a case of ‘gotcha’ where a plaintiff may not have known the basis to file suit or the nature and cause of his injury the instant it happened,” Kane wrote in court papers. “Instead, Sharper did not file his disputed claims until December 14, 2011 — 25 months after his alleged injury.”
Sharper, 38, hurt his left knee in November 2009 during a home game against the Carolina Panthers and aggravated the injury the next month, though he continued to play through the playoffs and during the Saints’ Super Bowl victory in February 2010. The team re-signed Sharper the following season, but he was placed on the “physically unable to perform” list for several months as he convalesced.
“Despite the fact that there were games in which he did not play, he attended practices, participated in meetings, attended games and participated in necessary rehabilitation, all of which is considered work under the terms of his contract for which he was paid his full salary,” Judge Daniel Dysart wrote in the 4th Circuit’s ruling. “Therefore, Sharper’s argument that his salary was a payment in lieu of compensation, rather than earned wages, cannot stand.”
Joining Dysart in the decision were Judges Roland Belsome and Paul Bonin.
Sharper, who has been accused of rape in several states, remains jailed in Los Angeles, where he faces various sexual assault charges.
He also has been indicted on two counts of sexual assault and three counts of administering dangerous drugs in Arizona, and a warrant has been issued for his arrest in New Orleans in connection with separate rape allegations.
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