TALLAHASSEE — An offensive lineman allegedly injured while trying out for the Orlando Predators has lost his workers’ compensation case against the Arena Football League.
On June 6, the 1st District Court of Appeals reversed and remanded an earlier judgment awarding compensation for injuries the player allegedly sustained four years ago.
A three-judge appellate panel ruled against Bryon Bishop’s claim that he was entitled to workers’ compensation as an employee of the AFL. Although a contract was signed by Bishop and the Predators’ coach, the court found that the contract was not binding, because it was never signed by a league representative. Since AFL players are employed by the league, rather than an individual team like NFL players, the lack of a signature by an AFL representative was key to the panel’s decision.
In a written opinion supported by the panel, Judge Allen Winsor stated that while it is possible for parties to assent to a contract without providing signatures, “We cannot conclude that allowing a player to participate in a tryout shows assent to ‘hire the player as a skilled football player’ for the duration of a football season.”
In October 2015, Judge Thomas Sculco, Judge of Compensation Claims at the Orlando District Office, awarded Bishop compensation for his alleged injuries, and determined that the player “was under contract with [the AFL] at the time of his alleged injury.” The appellate panel deemed Sculco’s conclusion incorrect and remanded an entry to deny Bishop’s claims, “because there was no employer-employee relationship on the date of the injury” due to the missing contract signature.
Bishop played college football for the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill before attending training camp with the Carolina Panthers and playing briefly with the United Football League’s Florida Tuskers. Bishop played in the AFL for the Predators in 2010, allegedly suffering a lower back injury toward the end of the season. He was traded to the Jacksonville Sharks in 2011, but was released at mid-season without ever taking the field. He worked in security “on and off” through 2012.
Bishop was attempting a career comeback when he allegedly sustained injuries to his right knee, left foot, back, and neck during tryouts for the Predators on July 30 and 31, 2013. Bishop filed several petitions seeking compensation from the Predators and the AFL between in 2013 and 2014, seeking compensation for an average weekly wage of $1,475, plus unspecified claims for injury and partial disability, and reimbursement for $1,100 in out-of-pocket medical expenses.
Arena Football League and Arena Football One, LLC, v. Bryon Bishop. Case number 1D15-5130.