Home > Defenses, Tactics and Strategy, Uncategorized, Venue > Visiting California for the Workers’ Comp – Part 1 of 3

Visiting California for the Workers’ Comp – Part 1 of 3

California workers’ compensation does not often get attention from the world at large.  Most people work, some people get injured, and the lawyers usually fight it out – your typical newspaper or anchor will not discuss workers’ compensation because of its narrow application.  But then, something happens now and again, which shines a flood-light onto the swamp, and sends all of workers’ compensation’s dirty little secrets scurrying for cover.

One such light-bringing event was the front-page story of the Wall Street Journal (this one is behind a pay-wall), which covered, at length, the extent to which small hospitals go to perform expensive and often unnecessary treatments, using an army of lien-representatives to exploit the weakness of California’s workers’ compensation system.  Another is the problem plaguing professional sports.  Your humble blogger had the privilege of summarizing the problem for Lockout Lowdown, a sports law blog, some time ago.

The problem faced by professional sports teams is very real – players will have a lengthy career of several years, play as little as a single game in California, and then file a claim for a career-long cumulative trauma, seeking California benefits.  Often enough, the player’s only contact with California is the one game.  This was the case with Cleveland Crosby, who played between 1980 and 1985, and played a single game in California in 1982.

In Injured Workers’ Insurance Fund of the State of Maryland v. Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board (2001) 66 Cal. Comp. Cases 923 (writ denied), the WCAB held that, because Cleveland Crosby played a game in California while employed by the Baltimore Colts, California had jurisdiction over the Colts for Applicants cumulative trauma injury.

Defendant fought back, naively invoking common sense and reason before bringing out the big guns of Labor Code section 3600.5(b). But Insurance Fund didn’t have the right ammunition: it did not provide certification of reciprocity with California, and the insurance coverage did not appear to cover out-of-state injuries.  Because the defendant in this case failed to prove reciprocity or extra-territorial coverage, applicant prevailed.

But don’t lose hope! Come back tomorrow for Part 2 of 3…

  1. March 11, 2012 at 10:04 am

    I like your article. As a California WC defense attorney for 38 years, we do have a very claimant friendly comp system here. Maybe too friendly! When our last actor (sorry, governor) changed our system dramatically in 2005, it did make our state a bit more employer friendly, however the medical costs are about what they were before the 2005 overhaul.

    There are reasons for the minimum contact with California to get jurisdiction, the football players are taking advantage of something not meant for them. They can file in the state where their club is located but choose to file here because our system gives them so much more in the way of benefits. And, if there is only way game or one warm-up before a game (and they don’t even play in the game) they proceed against that team, the team pays for every bit of their career and can’t proceed against any of the other teams to get some of the money back (unless they are subject to California jurisdiction in the one year preceding the date of injury in the case).

    Legislation to change this may be off the table for years but the teams seem to be limiting this by contract, time will tell.

    John Miller

    • March 11, 2012 at 12:02 pm

      John,

      You’re absolutely right. Perhaps the thinking is that the people suffering from this aren’t California voters, so it’s ok to loot them. Sooner or later, people will stop sending their employees to California for this, among other reasons. Thanks for visiting the blog!

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