Former Washington Bullets forward Bob Dandridge scored a victory against Lloyds of London yesterday when a federal court jury told the company to honor a $250,000 disability insurance policy and pay him 18 months interest as well.
"I feel great," said Dandridge, 37, after the verdict at the end of a two-day trial in U.S. District Court in Alexandria.
Dandridge, whose professional career came to an end soon after an injury during a 1980 game, had sued Lloyds for breach of contract when it refused to pay out under the policy he had purchased.
During the trial, the insurance company argued that Dandridge had not met the definition of disabled in the contract because he had resumed playing professional basketball after the injury.
"Because Bob Dandridge resumed playing there was a question as to whether he was disabled and Lloyds felt that that should be resolved by a jury," said Lloyds' lawyer, Philip Walsh.
Dandridge, who now lives in the District and works in the mental health field, was a key figure in the Bullets' 1978 National Basketball Association championship. During a November 1980 game in New York against the Knicks, Dandridge was injured when two players fell on him.
His lawyer, Steven M. Schneebaum, argued at the trial that the accident caused lasting damage to the right peroneal nerve, which runs down the leg from the knee to the foot. Dandridge resumed playing in March 1981 but lasted only one month. His Bullets contract ended and the following season he signed with the Milwaukee Bucks. He played one month and was let go.
Lloyds' contract had stated that the insured had to be disabled for a year before he could collect on the disability policy. Walsh argued that Dandridge's having resumed playing for a time during the year after his injury meant he did not meet the policy's definition of disabled.
Walsh also contended Dandridge's leg problems were from degeneration of his joints, not from the accident.
The six-member jury deliberated 1 hour 40 minutes.
"I think we all have learned a little about professional sports contracts in this trial," said James C. Cacheris, the presiding judge. Cacheris declined to expand on his remarks after court.
Dandridge said after the verdict that more people are beginning to realize that professional athletes look upon what they do "as a job and not something we do for fun."