Appeal from the Order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board, in the case of Edward T. McGlasson v. Philadelphia Eagles Football Club, No. A-92034.
Don P. Foster, Rubin, Quinn & Moss, for petitioner.
Thomas E. Sennett, Swartz, Campbell & Detweiler, for respondent, Philadelphia Eagles Football Club.
Judges Craig and Colins, and Senior Judge Barbieri, sitting as a panel of three. President Judge Crumlish, Jr., and Judges Craig, Doyle, Barry, Colins, Palladino and Smith. Opinion by Judge Craig. Judge Doyle dissents. Judge McGinley did not participate in the decision in this case. Dissenting Opinion by Judge Colins.
[ 125 Pa. Commw. Page 488]
Edward T. McGlasson appeals an order of the Workmen's Compensation Appeal Board affirming a referee's decision to award disability benefits, but reversing the referee's decision to include a $7500 signing bonus in the computation of his average weekly wage for the purpose of workmen's compensation benefits. We affirm the board's decision to exclude the signing bonus from the calculation of benefits.
The facts of the case are not in dispute. McGlasson was under contract to perform with the Philadelphia Eagles Football Club for the 1983-84 football season. The terms of the contract included a $7,500 "signing bonus" which McGlasson received in May of 1983.
On July 25, 1983, McGlasson suffered a career-ending knee injury during the Eagles' pre-season training period. He filed a claim petition for workmen's compensation, and the referee found that McGlasson was eligible for total disability benefits under section 306(a) of The Pennsylvania Workmen's Compensation Act,*fn1 from July 25, 1983 through April 14, 1984, and partial disability benefits under section 306(b) of the Act, 77 P.S. § 512, from April 15, 1984, to the present. The ordered benefits
[ 125 Pa. Commw. Page 489]
were based on an average weekly wage derived from a total wage that included the signing bonus. The referee also assessed counsel fees against the team because, he concluded, there was no reasonable basis for the Eagles to contest the claim.
The Eagles then appealed the decision to the board which, reversing in part, excluded the signing bonus from the total wages as "an exceptional cause which does not fairly reflect the total wages of the Claimant." Section 309(d) of the Act, 77 P.S. § 582(d). Additionally, the board held that the referee erred in finding that there was no reasonable basis for contest. McGlasson now appeals the board's decision.
The sole issue in this appeal concerns whether a professional athlete's signing bonus should be included in the computation of his average weekly wage for the purpose of workmen's compensation benefits. Our scope of review is confined to a determination of whether an error of law has been committed, constitutional rights have been violated, or whether any findings of fact are not supported by substantial evidence. Estate of McGovern v. State Employees' Retirement Board, 512 Pa. 377, 517 A.2d 523 (1986).
Section 309 of the Act does not define "wages," and McGlasson's contract, a standard "NFL Player Contract," does not specify an amount to be used as his total or average weekly wage in the event of a disability. Therefore, we must interpret the contract and determine whether the parties intended to include the signing bonus in the calculation of the average weekly wage. To ascertain those intentions, all of the ...