Bruce Matthews case gives players a path to California workers’ compensation benefits

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For years, the NFL and the NFLPA have been squabbling in a variety of court systems regarding the ability of injured players to pursue workers’ compensation benefits in California.  A recent federal appeals court decision, while resulting in a defeat for Hall of Fame guard Bruce Matthews, paved the way for players to nullify contractual clauses requiring them to pursue workers’ compensation cases only in the states where their teams are located.

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The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled last week that, if the player has suffered an injury in California, he can’t be prevented from seeking workers’ compensation benefits in California, regardless of any provisions in his contract to the contrary.  Matthews lost his case because he didn’t show that kind of connection to California.

Players generally prefer California because of the perception that it’s easier to get benefits, and the awards are larger.  Moving forward, players can get benefits under California law, as long as the injury happens while playing there.

Though the dollars involved aren’t nearly big enough to make the league inclined to avoid doing business in California, the extent to which the league and the players have been fighting on this issue makes us wonder whether the league ultimately would prefer, when filling the L.A. market, to not increase the total number of California teams beyond the current total of three.  If so, that makes the Chargers and Raiders more likely to move to Los Angeles than teams not located in California.

17 responses to “Bruce Matthews case gives players a path to California workers’ compensation benefits

  1. But California doesn’t HAVE any money. Does worker’s comp issue IOU’s?

    And do the players pay income tax on the money they earn while playing there? Maybe that’s a way to fund it.

  2. I am not sure I agree that the dollars for specific body part claims may not be big enough to make the cost of business prohibitive. Medical inflation runs at 6-8% per year and for medications it is closer to 10% per year. A life long back injury can pay out rather large. Additionally once they start pursuing psychological claims arguing that the head injuries sustained while playing football are causing any number of psychological traumas the settlements can get quite large.

    Factor in the benefits will extend to the life expectancy of the injured player and the number of players who could potentially file claims and you are talking enormous sums of money.

  3. And then there’s the issue of proving the injury occurred in CA. In some cases, it may be obvious (fractured tibia, torn ACL/MCL), others, not so much.

    Nice pic of Bruce in a Tennessee Oilers jersey, too, Mike.

  4. You da man Florio. Thanks for these nuggets. This is a good thing for the players. I appreciate your legal knowledge and ability to enlighten us on this stuff. And I am not being sarcastic. I mean it.

  5. Ok, so your telling me that a man who played professional football for nineteen years needs workman’s compensation benefits? There is no possible way I would believe that he and his family are hurting. Lawyers, and government programs that give money for people doing nothing are ruining this country!!!!!

  6. Yeah, wasn’t Cal the state that started the taxing of out of state teams players when they played in Cal?

  7. This makes no sense. The players are not employees. They are independent contractors. They are not entitled to workers compensation in any state. When the 9th Circuit says that a player cannot be prevented from applying for workers’ comp, they are exactly right. They can apply. They just can’t win. If they do win, then every independent contractor in the country can apply for workers comp against any business they happened to do work for. It would be ludicrous.

  8. – The players ARE employees. That’s why Bruce Matthews’ contract with the Titans had a forum selection clause. The Titans (and all teams) essentially admit that the players are employees. The teams have never argued that they are independent contractors.
    – CA is doing okay, despite the best efforts of Dean Spanos (Chargers owner, GOP member, and financier of Schwarzenegger campaign).Please remember that Schwarzenegger (a Republican) was in charge when the budget crisis was born and developed. Spanos does believe in the free market, except when it comes to pushing for a publicly-financed stadium (just like Lush Limbaugh and the Rams).
    – Think CA is bad at business? Please see where Riddell Corp., Fox Sports, AEG, and EA Sports are located if you think business is bad in CA. I could list thousands more examples, but thought I’d stick to three football-related ones.
    – Matthews only sought medical benefits, not income replacement benefits.
    – The Titans’ insurer, not the government, would pay out any work comp award.
    – Don’t believe players are hurting? Health care costs go up more than the rate of inflation each season. These players often have health care bills in the millions. True, if they were savvy investors, they’d have more than enough to pay those bills. But the honest truth is, most are not. Google Mark Brunell and $50 million for a stunning example.

  9. Dennisatunity: Just because someone signs a contract, it doesn’t mean they are a contractor. Plenty of employees sign contracts. Just as plenty of contractors are employed. Otherwise every employer would require employees to sign contracts and then that’d alleviate them of most duties to their employees.

  10. I bet most people don’t even know Clay Matthews is his nephew…the Matthews’ Family are a family of Faith and Outstanding football players who work hard and has football genes running through their veins,they do football the right way,God has definitely blessed that family! #GoPackGo

  11. TO me it would seem the players are actually product and not employees. Just like an actor or entertainer. Collectively they are the product/service being sold to the customer. I’ve always seen employees as the beer vendors and such. But it’s true they are actually employees. At least in this instance. When the union decertified and the players sued the NFL, one of the contentions was the salary cap was an illegal restriction of trade, or price fixing. In that instance don’t the players have to be product? THey certainly can’t be employees in that scenario?

  12. Its disgusting that guys making more than a million a year are attempting to get workmens comp and suck dry a system that is meant to help people pay their mortgages that cant.

    Our society is crumbling fast.

  13. You are obviously ignorant of the fact that roughly only 2% of all professional athletes make 1 million per year. You also don’t realize the average career for any professional athlete is 3-5 years, and therefore lifetime earnings are extremely small.

    You also forget about all the practice squad players who make 30,000 per year, and play through terrible injuries every day. Your saying that when those practice squad guys take a beating day in and day out and lose their job as a result of an injury and can’t pay off their mortgages, that they should not be allowed to pursuit workers comp?

    Check your facts before you make a dumb comment.

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