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Federal lawsuit filed by Atlanta Falcons, NFL against injured players

In previous workers' compensation defense posts, we examined how the state of California has rapidly become the venue of choice for former National Football League (NFL) players seeking to file work comp claims. Specifically, these former pros -- many of whom only practiced or played a few games in California -- are claiming to have suffered serious work-related injuries caused by years of bruising contact in the NFL.

The reason why so many former NFL players are now filing their claims is relatively straightforward.

California work comp laws were written to help the state's large population of migrant workers secure work comp benefits. As such, the statute of limitations for a work comp claim may be 15 years or longer from the date of work injury -- a longer time period than most other states. In addition, California workers are also allowed to file for "cumulative trauma," that is, conditions that are caused by years of exposure to repetitive trauma on the job.

Lastly, if a work comp claim proves successful, the former NFL player could receive up to $150,000 for the work-related injury and free medical care for life. -- a costly scenario for owners.

Nevertheless, it must be noted that NFL owners typically have one major weapon to defend themselves against this flood of California work comp claims.

Specifically, most NFL teams require that their players sign an agreement to file work comp claims in the state in which the team plays. If an arbitrator/judge enforces these provisions, then the NFL players will not be able to access California work comp courts.

To illustrate, over the last year both the New Orleans Saints and the Kansas City Chiefs have successfully won arbitration rulings ordering former players to file work comp claims in their home states (i.e., Louisiana, Kansas).

In fact, the NFL and the Atlanta Falcons recently filed a federal lawsuit asking the judge to enforce a binding arbitration ruling that ordered nine former Falcons -- Roderick Coleman, Wilrey Fontenot, Tony Gilbert, Kindal Moorehead, Stanley Pritchett, Karon Riley, Brett Romberg, Jason Webster and Dez White -- to file their work comp claims in Georgia, not California.

It remains to be seen how effective NFL owners will be in managing this new trend ...

Stay tuned for further developments in the area of workers' compensation defense law ...

This post was provided for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice.

Sources:

Corporate Counsel, "NFL and Falcons sue former players over workers' comp" March 21, 2012

Cinncinnati.com, "NFL Workers' Comp fight could cost hundreds of millions," Kimball Perry, Feb. 3, 2012

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