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Chuy v. Phila. Eagles Football Club

United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

November 29, 1977, Argued; November 6, 1978, Reargued En Banc ; March 9, 1979, Decided

Nos. 77-1411, 77-1412

Opinion

OPINION OF THE COURT

ROSENN, Circuit Judge.

 [*1269]  This appeal presents several interesting questions growing out of the employment by the Philadelphia [**2]  Eagles Football Club ("the Eagles") of a former professional player, Don Chuy ("Chuy"). The unexpected and unfortunate termination of Chuy's employment evoked charges by him that the Eagles had not played the game according to the rules when Chuy blew the whistle terminating his football career. Chuy ultimately reduced those charges to an antitrust and diversity action in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

I. BACKGROUND

Chuy joined the Eagles in 1969, having been traded from the Los Angeles Rams, another professional football club with which he had played for a half dozen years. On June 16, 1969, he met with the Eagles general manager, Palmer "Pete" Retzlaff, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to negotiate a contract with the Eagles for the 1969, 1970, and 1971 football seasons. The parties concluded their negotiations by executing three National Football League (NFL) standard form player contracts on June 16, 1969, covering the 1969, 1970, and 1971 football seasons respectively at a salary of $ 30,000 for each season, with a $ 15,000 advance for the 1969 season.

The contracts each contained a standard NFL injury-benefit provision entitling [**3]  a player injured in the performance of his service to his salary "for the term of his contract." Chuy sustained a serious injury to his shoulder during his first season in a game between the Eagles and the New York Giants in November, 1969. Sidelined for the remainder of the season, Chuy had to be hospitalized for most of December, 1969. During the hospitalization, his diagnosis revealed a pulmonary embolism, a blood clot in his lung, which marked the end of his professional athletic career. Following the advice of his physician, Chuy decided to retire from professional football and notified the Eagles of his intention. At the same time, Chuy requested that the Eagles pay him for the remaining two years of what he asserted was a three-year contract.

The Eagles requested that Chuy submit to a physical examination which Dr. *** D. Harrell conducted in March, 1970. After extensive tests, Dr. Harrell concluded that Chuy suffered from an abnormal cell condition, presumably stress polycythemia, which may have predisposed him to the formation of dangerous blood clots. He therefore recommended to the Eagles that Chuy should "not be allowed to participate further in contact sports.  [**4]  " Shortly after receiving Dr. Harrell's recommendation, General Manager Retzlaff informed Hugh Brown, a sports columnist for the Philadelphia Bulletin, that Chuy had been advised to quit football because of his blood clot condition. Brown thereupon telephoned Dr. James Nixon, the Eagles' team physician, for further information on Chuy's medical status.

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595 F.2d 1265 *; 1979 U.S. App. LEXIS 16338 **; 4 Media L. Rep. 2537

DON CHUY, Appellant in No. 77-1412 v. THE PHILADELPHIA EAGLES FOOTBALL CLUB (sued as "The Philadelphia Eagles"), Appellant in No. 77-1411 and THE NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE

Prior History:  [**1]  APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA

(D.C. Civil No. 71-1802)

CORE TERMS

punitive damages, district court, polycythemia, season, reputation, player, defamatory, disease, parties, football, contracts, emotional distress, public figure, interrogatories, outrageous, reckless, damages, injure, salary, tended, cases, defamation, ambiguity, diversity, blood, compensatory damages, defamatory meaning, matter of law, deter, tests

Contracts Law, Contract Interpretation, General Overview, Parol Evidence, Evidence, Admissibility, Statements as Evidence, Parol Evidence, Ambiguities & Contra Proferentem, Defenses, Ambiguities & Mistakes, Types of Evidence, Documentary Evidence, Civil Procedure, Trials, Judgment as Matter of Law, Standards of Review, Substantial Evidence, Sufficiency of Evidence, Torts, Intentional Torts, Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress, Jury Trials, Jury Instructions, Types of Negligence Actions, Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress, Business & Corporate Law, Duties & Liabilities, Negligent Acts of Agents, Liability of Principals, Employers, Scope of Employment, Authorized Acts of Agents, Vicarious Liability, Remedies, Damages, Punitive Damages, Types of Damages, Punitive Damages, Aggravating Circumstances, Nominal Damages, Agency Relationships, Ratification, Causes of Action & Remedies, Availability, Employers, Defamation, Province of Court & Jury, Procedural Matters