Detroit Tigers Win Appeal, Reducing Worker’s Comp to Injured Pitcher

### Detroit Tigers Win Workers’ Comp Appeal, Reducing Payout to Injured Minor League Pitcher

In a significant ruling by Florida’s 1st District Court of Appeals, the Detroit Tigers have successfully appealed to lower the workers’ compensation benefits owed to former minor league pitcher Austin Sodders. This decision saves the team over $14,000 and overturns a previous judgment that had substantially increased Sodders’ weekly indemnity payments. This is according to a report from Insurance

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Initial Ruling and Dispute

The original decision, handed down by Compensation Judge Robert Arthur, awarded Sodders $349 per week in indemnity benefits. This ruling was based on the argument presented by Sodders and his attorney, Michael Winer, which contended that his compensation should be calculated over a full year of earnings, not just the contractual period. However, the appellate court found this interpretation overly lenient and inconsistent with statutory guidelines and the specific terms of Sodders’ employment contract.

“The JCC (judge of compensation claims) does not have discretion to reject the contract’s plain language, even where he finds it too ‘stringent,’” stated the 1st DCA. This judgment emphasizes the intricate legal framework surrounding workers’ compensation for part-time or seasonal employees, such as minor league athletes.

The Appeal’s Arguments

Sodders, who sustained a shoulder injury while pitching for the Lakeland Tigers in 2018, was initially compensated at a rate of $144 per week under his five-month contract. Judge Arthur’s initial decision had incorporated potential off-season earnings into the calculation, significantly boosting his weekly benefits to $349. The appellate court, however, determined that Florida law mandates compensation to be calculated based on the contract or actual earnings at the time of injury, without the flexibility to adjust for potential earnings.

“Under section 440.14(1)(d), the claimant’s full-time weekly wages are ‘determined prospectively by using either the contract of employment or the actual earnings on the job where Claimant was working at the time of the injury,’” explained District Court Judge Robert Long Jr. in the opinion.

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Impact of the Ruling

Despite Sodders’ contract outlining some year-round commitments, the court noted his ability to seek other employment during the off-season—a provision he did not utilize. Consequently, the appellate judges ruled that his weekly compensation should revert to the contractual amount of $144.

This decision follows legal precedent from other similar cases involving athletes with seasonal contracts and underscores the complexities involved in determining fair compensation for such workers. The case has been sent back to Judge Arthur for adjustment of Sodders’ benefits in accordance with the appellate court’s directives.

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Written by W.G. Brady

W.G. Brady is a Detroit-based journalist who has been covering the Detroit sports scene for Detroit Sports Nation for several years. He is in his early 30s and has a wealth of experience in the industry. Throughout his career, W.G. has established himself as a respected and knowledgeable journalist known for his in-depth coverage of the teams and athletes in Detroit. With a keen eye for detail and a passion for sports, W.G. has become a go-to source for fans and readers looking for the latest news and analysis on the Detroit sports scene. He has a good reputation in the sports community and is respected for his unbiased coverage of sports events. W.G. is known for his ability to uncover hidden stories and provide unique perspectives on the teams and athletes he covers. He has a good understanding of the city of Detroit and its sports culture, which he uses to inform his reporting and analysis. He continues to be a respected journalist in the Detroit sports industry.

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