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1) using profanity or any euphemisms for profanity
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Dodgers Sue Hartford over Compensation for Shuey
2006-05-22 13:52
by Jon Weisman
Note: The Dodger Thoughts blog has moved to the Los Angeles Times.

Paul Shuey ended his official major league playing career on a high note, with a 3.00 ERA in 69 innings as part of the spectacular Dodger pitching staff of 2003.

The unofficial end wasn't so lovely: Shuey spent 2004 on the disabled list before retiring in 2005 after a comeback attempt in the Cleveland Indian organization fell short because of injury troubles. Even today, payment of the final portion of his contract is still an issue. The Dodgers have sued Hartford Life Insurance Company for failing to fulfill a $1.7 million insurance claim arising from the hip condition that sidelined the former reliever.

According to court documents filed Friday (the link will enable you to download a copy in PDF form), the Indians took out an insurance policy in 2001 to cover Shuey, then assigned the policy to the Dodgers when Shuey was traded in mid-2002. Hip problems began to manifest on a serious level for Shuey in 2003. He had surgery following that season, and ultimately never pitched in a regular season major league game again.

A point of contention appears to be whether or not the thumb injury that Shuey suffered during a 2004 Spring Training fielding drill should affect the claim:

9. Due to the condition of Mr. Shuey's hip and his resulting limited capacities, the Dodgers concluded in the course of the 2004 preseason that he was disabled from pitching at the Major League level, and would be placed on the disabled list at the outset of the 2004 regular season. However, because Mr. Shuey, a highly motivated professional athlete, was eager to compete for a place on the Dodgers' roster and was making every effort to recover his prior pitching form, the Dodgers permitted him to continue participating in spring training.

10. On March 31, 2004, Mr. Shuey attempted to participate in a spring training pitcher fielding drill that required him to run from the pitcher's mound to first base and catch a relay throw from second base (in baseball parlance, a "3-6-1 double play"). However, the condition of his hip limited his mobility and he was unable to keep up with the pace of the drill. As a result, he was caught out of position, and was forced to duck to avoid a thrown baseball, at which point his right hip and leg gave way and he fell to the ground, injuring his right thumb. The injury to his thumb prevented Mr. Shuey from properly gripping and pitching a baseball at a professional level.

11. After his thumb fully healed, Mr. Shuey was still unable to perform at a Major League level due to the condition of his hip. Although he continued to attempt to rehabilitate his hip by pitching in minor-league intrasquad games and rookie league games, he experienced significant pain and was ineffective even at those lower levels of competition. In July 2004, Mr. Shuey had another surgery on his right hip inserting a titanium cap into the head of his femur. He was unable to pitch again in 2004, and ultimately was never able to return to Major League play. He reluctantly retired in 2005.

12. The Dodgers sought coverage under the Hartford policy for amounts paid to Mr. Shuey under his contract during the period of his disability through the end of the 2004 regular baseball season. Hartford apparently contends that Mr. Shuey's efforts to rehabilitate his hip and return to his team during spring training 2004 suggest that he was not "Totally Disabled," as defined in the Hartford policy, prior to March 30, 2004; that any period of disability following March 31, 2004 may be attributed to Shuey's thumb injury and is therefore not covered under its policy; and that the Dodgers have failed to produce adequate evidence that Mr. Shuey's total disability was in fact due to his hip injury.

Did the fact that Shuey participated in a fielding drill (and by the way, did you enjoy the legal nod to the 3-6-1 double play?) with his hip injury illustrate he was not totally disabled? That's one of the issues the judicial system will explore.

Parenthetically, in the shadow of Eric Gagne's imminent return from a series of "highly motivated professional athlete" health problems, did the fact that Shuey participated in a fielding drill with his slipped hip make any sense at all? What did Shuey think he was accomplishing?

Old habits die hard, I guess.

Shuey had a major league ERA+ of 130 (his ERA was 3.57 against a league average during that time of 4.64) and struck out 534 batters in 504 1/3 innings before injuries overran him.

"Although I can still get guys out with an 85 mph fastball, my splitter and a change here (in Class AA), I wouldn't be able to get away with it in the big leagues," Shuey was quoted as saying on the Akron Aeros official website upon announcing his retirement. "When I pushed it up to 87 and had that same pain in the back of my hip, I knew it just wasn't going to work."

Comments
2006-05-22 14:34:28
1.   Steve
Speaking of which, Jon, when are you going to take Nomar! off the DL and put Baez on the Past Dodgers list?
2006-05-22 14:40:41
2.   Jon Weisman
I have lots of trouble keeping the sidebar updated with past moves - future moves makes it even more challenging.
2006-05-22 15:07:56
3.   bhsportsguy
Jon - this issue will become more and more prevalent, for example the Bagwell situation. What will probably happen is that premiums will become so expensive, that the market will make it a non-issue but for pre-2006 contracts, I predict that a lot more litigation will come forward.
2006-05-22 15:37:26
4.   scareduck
I would be curious to learn what the Hartford's definition of "total disability" is. Minus all his limbs? I haven't seen such legalistic subterfuge since the Bush administration started defining what qualifies as torture.
2006-05-22 16:32:48
5.   LAT
4. It depends on the policy language. Coverage always comes back to the policy language. I'm sure Hartford sought a coverage opinion from counsel and was told there was a basis for disclaiming coverage. Hartford would not risk bad faith exposure without consulting counsel.

Jon, I would be interested in reading the complaint if you are trying to decide whether to post it.

2006-05-22 16:40:46
6.   Bob Timmermann
5
It's scintillating reading I can assure you. When I read it, I was at the edge of my seat. It was a roller coaster ride of thrills and spills.
2006-05-22 16:48:55
7.   Jon Weisman
5 - When I have time after work, I'll try to get a link up.
2006-05-22 17:21:57
8.   LAT
Bob, as an insurance coverage attorney it is an interesting departure from the usual environmental coverage and ADLA claims.

7. Jon if you can link it, great, if not don't worry I can get it.

2006-05-22 17:27:57
9.   Bob Timmermann
I could email it to you if you send me your address.

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