Ohio appeals court OKs staph suit against Browns

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.

Browns players Brian Russell, Ben Taylor, Kellen Winslow and

Braylon Edwards also battled staph.