SAN FRANCISCO -- A federal appeals court Tuesday granted former San Diego Chargers cornerback John Hendy the right to take his former team to court over a knee injury that permanently sidelined him in 1987.
Hendy, 29, sued the team and the team doctor Gary Losse after he reinjured a knee that he allegedly was told was fine following a 1986 injury. The Chargers had his state lawsuit transferred to a federal court, contending he was subject to the collective bargaining agreement under federal law.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with Hendy and ruled Tuesday he had a claim that should be hashed out in state court.
The judges sent the case back to the California courts.
'This is excellent,' said Don Howarth, Hendy's attorney. 'It is a complete victory.'
Howarth said if Hendy had been subject to the terms of the collective bargaining agreement he would not have been able to make any claim for the injury.
'They key thing is, we have a lawsuit that is not pre-empted by the collective bargaining agreement,' Howarth said.
In a separate case, the California Supreme Court last month agreed to hear an appeal by Losse, the Charger's physician. Losse contends that Hendy's injury claims against him are subject to workers compensation review not a state lawsuit.
Hendy claims he was told after his 1986 knee injury by the team and the team doctor that he was fit to play and to forget the pain in his knee. In 1987, a second doctor said the continuing knee problem could not be repaired because Hendy had continued to play on the bad knee.
Hendy, who was born in Guatemala and lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, was one of the bright young players in the Chargers lineup in the mid-1980s. He started 10 games as a rookie and accumulated 60 total tackles and had four interceptions during the 1985 season. However, because of the injury he was cut in 1987.
Howarth said Hendy was earning $225,000 a year when he was cut by the Chargers and could have expected a six to 10-year career. Howarth said he is seeking damages for the loss of Hendy's salary and his emotional suffering.