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California Has No Jurisdiction Over Another Ohio Pro-Sports Case

Are you tired of pro-sports cases? No? Good!

Today’s post is on the subject of Dan Fike, and, more to the point, his claim against the Baltimore Ravens/Cleveland Browns.  Mr. Fike was a professional football player from June of 1985 to December of 1992.  He sought to have his industrial injuries addressed under California’s workers’ compensation system, alleging a cumulative trauma to the head, neck, back, shoulders, and other body parts.

The defense was one typical of such cases: California did not have jurisdiction.  To support this defense, the Cleveland Browns provided evidence of self-insurance and extra-territorial coverage.  Testimony also established that between 1985 and 1992, applicant played only nine games in California.  Evidence also showed that no contract was entered into in California.

The WCJ found that, despite applicant’s 95.2% permanent disability, California had no jurisdiction under Labor Code section 3600.5.

On reconsideration, applicant argued, among other things, that the WCJ should have focused on the employer’s activities, rather than the employee’s in determining whether the employee was temporarily in the state.  After all, if the employer is regularly active in California, and the employee was just one of many cogs in the state, California should be able to assert jurisdiction over the claim, right?

No.  The answer is no.  Labor Code section 3600.5 is essentially a deal – a trust, a conspiracy between one state and another that says we won’t squeeze your employers for every penny if you won’t squeeze our employers for every penny, within these particular guidelines.   More to the point, even California understands that there are limits to how much your can rob visiting employers before employers stop visiting.

The WCAB denied applicant’s petition, and confirmed that employers from Ohio can safely send their agents into California, without fear of ever needing your humble blogger’s services.  The Court of Appeal denied applicant’s petition for a writ of review.

Now, interestingly enough, we have a statutory limit, aside from Labor Code section 3600.5(b), to such a claim at this point (maybe), and that’s subsection (c).  3600(c) NOW says that if the injured pro-sports athlete was hired outside of California and the employer has insurance outside of California, California does not have jurisdiction if the last year of the athlete’s career had less than 20% “duty days” in the Golden State.

Your humble blogger doesn’t have all the facts for this particular case, but 3600.5(c) is definitely a section worth exploring if you’re defending against a pro-athlete claim.

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