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NFL lobbies for California workers' compensation defense bill

Most employers respect the legal rights of their workers, since without their employees most businesses cannot survive. This is true for businesses in all types of industries, including professional sports teams. However, sometimes workers' compensation laws in certain jurisdictions may be overly liberal, which could result in a sports team being exposed to large amounts of liability from injured athletes. The National Football League has recognized this and has been lobbying for a bill which would limit claims from out-of-state players in an effort to reduce the costs of workers' compensation defense.

The bill, AB 1309, was recently passed by the state Senate with a 32-2 vote in early September, after it passed in the California Assembly on a 61-4 vote. The Assembly will now have to make a final vote on the bill in order to pass the bill onto the governor. Most commentators believe that the bill will be successful in the final Assembly vote. The state legislature is scheduled to return from recess in mid-September.

The proposed bill came about in response to the state's liberal interpretation of its workers' compensation laws. The liberal interpretation of the state law has allowed athletes who have only played in a few games in California over the length of their careers to be able to bring claims citing cumulative trauma, which includes a significant number of claims regarding alleged head injuries. However, the bill will not limit the ability of athletes who spent most of their careers with California teams, rather it would prevent claims from athletes who did not play for California-based teams for at least two seasons as well as those who played for seven or more seasons with teams outside of California.

Regardless of the outcome of this recently proposed bill, employers in any industry in California would be wise to pay close attention to changes in workplace injury laws, since the state has been known to liberally interpret these statutes. This means employers may find themselves requiring workers' compensation defense in order to avoid liability for alleged workplace injuries. In order to be successful, employers will need to have a complete understanding of proper legal procedures for challenging a claim.

Source: Los Angeles Times, California bill limiting workers' comp claims by athletes advances, Marc Lifsher, Sept. 6, 2013

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