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COA: 1/34 CA Games Insufficient for California Jurisdiction

Everybody loves a published decision from the Court of Appeal.  The unpublished opinions are the worst – it’s like you know a secret, but you have to pretend you don’t.  The Judge, opposing counsel, everyone in the Board room exchanges looks, secretly thinking the case name that we’re not allowed to mention…

Well, allow your humble blogger to provide you with a not-so-secret bit of information you can freely scream from the mountaintops: the case of Federal Insurance Company v WCAB (Adrienne Johnson)

The basic gist of this case is as follows: the Court of Appeal held that a professional basketball player not employed by a California team, who had never resided in California, and played only one out of 34 games in California and sustained no specific injury in California, did not have sufficient contact with California to grant it jurisdiction.

Now, I’m not going to bore you with the details, but the basic idea is this – the first question that needs to be answered when some non-Californian comes here and walks through or precious WCAB doors is whether California has jurisdiction.

Labor Code section 3600.5 provides that California will have jurisdiction if the employee has been hired or regularly employed in California.  Is one game in 34 enough to be “regularly employed”?  Well, as you will recall, the case of Injured Workers’ Insurance Fund of the State of Maryland v. WCAB (2001), a WCJ held that a single game was enough to grant California jurisdiction for applicant’s cumulative trauma.

But, here, the Court of Appeal held that one game was NOT enough to be “regularly employed” in California to satisfy section 3600.5.  In fact, “the effect of the California game on the injury is at best de minimis.”

So what’s the take-away?  There really aren’t that many pro-athlete claims, and many of those will now be barred by the freshly pressed section 3600.5(c).  But, as always, what about the non-high-profile employees?  What about the temporary consultants, the conference attendees, the recruiters, the motivational speakers, etc., that visit California at their employer’s instruction and sustain some sort of cumulative trauma?

If one game out of 34 is not enough, if it is “at best de minimis,” then how many days out of a career?  How many training seminars?

Picture a California, dear readers, where mobs of angry employers and insurance adjusters picket outside the WCAB Board, telling Ohion employees to go back to Ohioania, Nebraskaites to go back to Nebraskatania, and Floridanians to go back to Floridania, and stop taking the precious hearing dates that Providence intended for California cases.


Just some food for thought, dear readers.  Happy Wednesday!

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