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Tillman v. New Orleans Saints Football Club - 265 So. 2d 284 (La. Ct. App. 1972)


La. Civ. Code Ann. art. 3534 provides that the following actions are prescribed by one year: that of justices of the peace and notaries, and persons performing their duties, as well as that of constables, for the fees and emoluments which are due to them in their official capacity; that of masters and instructors in the arts and sciences, for lessons which they give by the month; that of innkeepers and such others, on account of lodging and board which they furnish; that of retailers of liquors, who sell ardent spirits in less quantities than one quart; that of workmen, laborers and servants, for the payment of their wages; that for the payment of the freight of ships and other vessels, the wages of the officers, sailors and others of the crew; that for the supply of wood and other things necessary for the construction, equipment, and provisioning of ships and other vessels.


Plaintiff professional football player filed a claim against defendant New Orleans Saints Football Club for money due under a standard player’s agreement on April 23, 1969. Under its terms, the Saints were to pay Plaintiff $12,000 for the 1967 football season subject to the right of prior termination. Before the commencement of the regular season, Plaintiff suffered a torn ligament of the knee. The Saints waived Plaintiff on November 1, 1967. At trial, the team doctor, who operated on the player to repair a torn knee ligament, testified that, as of one week before the player's termination, he was able to return to full play. But, an orthopedic surgeon's reports were to the contrary. The trial court dismissed his complaint and he filed an appeal.


Is the plaintiff’s action covered by the one-year prescription under Article 3534 of La. Civ. Code Ann.?




The court held that art. 3534 was inapplicable. The word "servants" in art. 3534 did not apply to persons who were employed under salaried contracts. Because the player's action was a personal one based on a written agreement, the 10-year prescriptive period of La. Civ. Code Ann. art. 3544 applied to the action, which had not prescribed. As to the player's readiness to play, the court noted that the orthopedic surgeon's opinion was based on an erroneous understanding of the player's injury, so the opinion was not given much weight. The court found no error in the trial court's conclusion, which accepted the team doctor's opinion. A contract provision calling for a third doctor's opinion was inapplicable, given that the orthopedic surgeon's opinion was given little weight. Although there was no written notice of termination as required by the contract, the player had actual notice, and by his actions, he waived written notice.

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