CLEVELAND -- An Ohio appeals court has ruled in favor of former Cleveland Browns center LeCharles Bentley, saying the team can't force NFL arbitration to halt a lawsuit on the career-ending staph infection he says he contracted at the team's training facility.
The Ohio 8th District Court of Appeals in Cleveland on Thursday upheld a Cuyahoga County judge's ruling, saying the issue is not related to the collective bargaining agreement and can be handled in county court.
Bentley's attorney has said he nearly died from the infection he contracted while rehabbing from a knee injury at the team's suburban Berea facility. The team is accused of persuading Bentley to rehab at the training site and failing to tell him about unsanitary conditions and other players who had contracted staph.
The team had argued that state and federal laws support arbitration over litigation.
Bentley never played a game for the Browns after signing a six-year, $36 million contract as a free agent. He tore his left patellar tendon in training camp in 2006, and his career never recovered after the infection.
In 2007, Bentley told The Associated Press that he had undergone four operations since getting hurt, the final two to clean out the staph infection, which ate away at his tendon.
The Browns had at least six players stricken with some sort of staph infection in recent years, including former receiver Joe Jurevicius, who settled a similar lawsuit with the team last year.
When the Jurevicius lawsuit was settled, a team attorney said the Browns' sanitation and hygiene practices were at the highest state-of-the-art level in the league.