SBJ/August 13-19, 2012/Labor and Agents

Workers’ comp ruling a victory for NFL

The NFL scored a legal victory last week in its continuing battle with players over where they can file for workers’ compensation, as an appeals court ruled that the cumulative injuries a player received over the course of his career were not grounds to file a claim in California.

The NFL Players Association and NFL could not resolve the issue in last year’s collective-bargaining agreement. Players have filed a series of lawsuits seeking to file claims in California, which is far more generous with comp claims than other states.

The NFLPA has argued that even if a player’s contract requires him to file such claims in his home state, California law trumps those provisions.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, believed to be the first appeals court to rule on the issue, rejected that argument in a case brought by former Tennessee Titans lineman and hall of famer Bruce Matthews.

The decision, however, also appeared to open a loophole for other claims, as the court said that had Matthews pointed to a specific injury he suffered while playing in California, that could have been reason to override his contract’s restrictions on where he could file claims.

“If Matthews had suffered an injury requiring medical treatment while playing a game in California, [that] would appear to foreclose enforcement of the Tennessee choice of law clause in his employment contract,” the court wrote.

The NFL in a statement said, “The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reached the logical conclusion that out-of-state players who signed contracts promising to file workers’ compensation only in the state in which they primarily worked must live up to those contracts when they allege injury in multiple states. The court confirmed that California’s public policy is to protect California employees who were injured in California, not out-of-state employees who not only can seek workers’ compensation benefits elsewhere but promised to do so.”

The NFLPA did not reply for comment.

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