It’s Not the Crime it’s the Cover-Up: A MRSA lawsuit against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers illustrates the principle

In the Circuit Court of Broward County, Florida, this past Monday, former National Football League kicker Lawrence Tynes filed suit against his former team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

TynesHe says he contracted a methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infection from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Training Facility, One Buccaneer Place, during the summer of 2013, which, among other things, caused him to: (1) have 3 surgeries to remove infected tissue (2) live under the threat that doctors were going to have to amputate his toe as the infection worsened (3) endure six weeks of intravenous antibiotic therapy which involved a central line catheter inserted into his arm and placed above his heart (photo) (4) live with persistent pain which he is reminded of every time he gets out of bed and his feet hit the ground, and (5) sustain permanent damage to his kicking foot thus ending his career which cost him over $20 million in expected future earnings.

A crucial component of Mr. Tynes’s complaint against the Bucs is found in paragraph 23 of his 57 paragraph Statement of Claim which reads, in part: “… Defendants failed to disclose, and actively concealed, ongoing separate incidents of infection amongst individuals who used and visited One Buccaneer Place.” (My emphasis)

What, exactly, did they cover-up? It was the fact that 6 other members of the Bucs – 4 players, an assistant coach, and the head trainer – were also battling bacterial infections that summer. That these people “used the same hot and cold tubs, soak buckets, and other therapy devices, equipment, and surfaces used by Mr.Tynes.” And that as a result Lawrence Tynes contracted his life-threatening career-ending infection.

But why the cover-up? What reason would the Bucs have for keeping this critical information from him? The answer, according to Mr. Tynes, is the Bucs’ effort to gain advantage in the very competitive NFL marketplace in order to attract the best available players and coaches.

Lawrence Tynes, an integral part of the New York Giants 2007 and 2011 Super Bowl Championships, was a sought after free agent when he signed with the Bucs in the summer of 2013. What induced him to sign was the Bucs’ highly-touted superior medical and rehab facility, as laid out in para 9 of his Claim:

“Defendants represented to Bucs players, prospective Bucs players, including Mr.Tynes … that the Bucs Training Facility is a world-class facility at which ‘state-of-the-art’ physical training, medical care and treatment, and other rehabilitative services are provided … that the ‘gleaming new team headquarters,’ which it calls ‘One Buccaneer Palace,’ ‘is the largest facility in the NFL. Equipped with every modern tool to help produce a successful team on the field, the facility is also a major draw for potential free agents.’”

This had particular appeal to Tynes because as a kicker he has “a podiatrist perform a toe-nail procedure on his great kicking toe” in the summer before the start of each season. This requires a strict rehabilitation regimen; the use of “hot tubs, cold tubs, and a soak bucket for his toe, and included dressing changes to the open wound on his toe” – the functional equivalent of a quarterback’s arm.

Knowing this, the Bucs told Tynes’ agent that they had “the best of everything” and “procedures designed to prevent the spread of infection were in place … at the Bucs Training facility.” And that’s what Tynes relied on.

Now, Lawrence Tynes only feels betrayed: it’s not so much that he contracted MRSA; rather, it’s the cover-up that led to the infection that bothers him most. In a recent interview he told ESPN: “You expect this billion-dollar enterprise to protect you at all costs, and obviously, they didn’t do a lot of right things. I’m standing up for what I think is right, or what I know is right. I’m in this thing ’til the very end. I’m not going away.”



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