As the old saying goes, “it could only happen in California.” California’s workers compensation system apparently is the venue of choice for many professional athletes who sustain “work related” injuries during professional athletic activities. The typical injuries are orthopedic in nature and involve painful –and expensive– joint replacements many years after the athletes have stopped playing their sport. The basis for California jurisdiction is easy to satisfy. The claimant need not have played for a California based team or be resident of the state; playing an isolated game in California will do the trick.
The first few claims seeking workers compensation benefits for the permanent effects of concussion and closed head trauma are working their way through California’s system. Although it has been decades since many of the claimants have played in a professional game, they seek life time benefits for the costs related to the care and treatment of what they contend is work related head trauma including dementia and brain damage.
The battle lines have been drawn about which states can adjudicate these workers compensation claims and whether the claimants can medically establish that their injuries were caused by head trauma sustained decades ago. Right now the NFL is the primary target of these claims but other professional sporting organizations will surely follow close behind. Stay tuned in this high stakes and high profile litigation.
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