SBJ/December 3-9, 2012/Labor and Agents

NFLPA drops appeal in workers’ comp case

For the second time this year, the NFL Players Association has dropped an appeal of a lower court decision that prevented a group of players from filing workers’ compensation claims in California.

Eight former New Orleans Saints players, along with the NFLPA, filed an intent to drop the appeal with the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last week. The NFLPA and players had notified the appeals court in September that it would contest the lower court’s ruling, but no opening brief was subsequently filed.

In February, the NFLPA and three former Chicago Bears players dropped a similar appeal of a lower court’s ruling, pulling their 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals claim.

The NFLPA did not respond for comment.

“Appellants Cam Cleeland, Roderick Coleman, Donta Jones, Michael Lewis, Victor Riley, Terrelle Smith, Damon Nivens, Phil McGeoghan, and the National Football League Players Association (“NFLPA”) respectfully move the Court to dismiss this appeal, with each side to bear its own costs,” the motion said. No reason was given.

Where players can file workers’ compensation claims was one of the unresolved issues of the NFL-NFLPA labor negotiations last year. Players want to file in California, which has generous workers’ compensation rules. Teams generally put into player contracts forum provisions that require such claims be filed only in the home state of the club.

The NFLPA argument has been that these contract clauses cannot supersede the right to file in California, but at least two federal district courts have ruled against that position. In addition, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled earlier this year that players on teams outside of California could not file in the state if their contracts prohibited it, unless they could prove that the injury they suffered occurred in a game played in California.

In the case involving the former Saints players, the NFL sued the players and the NFLPA in August 2011 seeking to enforce an arbitrator’s decision disallowing the California claims.

The lower court ruled for the NFL earlier this year.

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