Professional Athlete

The En Banc decision in Westley Carroll vs. Cincinnati Bengals, 78 Cal. Comp. Cases 665, issued in June 2013. In Carroll the WCAB opined that reciprocity provided a valid jurisdictional defense for professional athletes who played for Ohio teams. Within the last six months defendants have been expanding the Carroll decision by asserting modified reciprocity defenses under Labor Code Section 3600.5 (b). In other words the teams are looking to the language of their workers compensation policies as a means to challenge an applicant’s right to file a California workers compensation claims. Previously the WCAB held California policy forbid any contract to prohibit an injured worker from contracting away his right to file a claim for benefits in California. The En Banc Dennis McKinley vs. Arizona Cardinals, (2013) 78 Cal. Comp. Cases 23, case provided California had no interest in litigating Mr. McKinley’s claim for benefits because he was not a resident of California and did not sign his contract in California. Thus it upheld a contract barring Mr. McKinley’s right to file a claim for California workers compensation benefits.

I believe the McKinley decision was an extension of the Ninth Circuit decision in Matthews, NFLPA vs NFL (2011) where the Court upheld an NFL arbitration agreement between the NFL Players Association and the NFL because Mr. Matthews did not establish an actual injury in California. The injury in California concept was further expanded by Fed. Ins. Co. vs. WCAB, (Johnson) (2013) 78 CCC 1257. In Johnson defendants objected to a claim for California workers compensation benefits when Ms. Johnson played only five minutes of one game in California. It sobering to consider that she won at trial and upon appeal to the WCAB, only losing when the Appellate Court essentially applied the Ninth Circuit decision in Matthews to an NBA case. In Johnson it was not a questions of contract, but injury in California.

More recently the State of Florida has enacted legislation creating “reciprocity” by adopting language almost identical to that of California with respect to filing workers compensation claims in out of state jurisdictions.

To overcome the jurisdictional bars to McKinely, Carroll, and Matthews it is imperative that an athlete establish injury in California. Without a medical report establishing injury, the case is finished before it begins.

As of September 15, 2013, professional athletes can no longer filed cumulative trauma claims in California absent substantial California contacts due to SB 1309.