Setting the Facts Straight About AB 1309

by / Friday, 24 May 2013 / Published in Blog

Recently, the L.A. Times ran an Editorial supporting AB 1309, however it didn’t tell the full story. We (my partners and I) sent them what I am posting on my blog below, but they refused to publish our viewpoint.  We’re setting the facts straight about AB 1309, and giving you the full story.  Please help us get the word out by sharing this post, so we can stop AB 1309.

Thank you, Mel Owens

The Sports Business Journal, in its April 29th – May 5, 2013 edition, reports on the NFL’s strategy in the concussion lawsuits that could cost the NFL 2.5 billion dollars.  Daniel Kaplan reports “the NFL is seeking to move the insurance lawsuit to a California court, where the state’s laws are more amenable to policy holders.”

When the NFL wants legal protection or a legal advantage they run to California. When the injured players seek workers’ compensation benefits in California they are demonized as “greedy”, “forum shopping”, or “as taking advantage of loopholes.”

The hypocrisy is the NFL is now seeking immunity from their obligations for workers’ compensation benefits, and at the same time any responsibility for brain/concussion injuries, so they run to the California legislature to change the law for workers’ compensation and at the same time seek California court protection in their lawsuits with their insurers for the concussion litigation.

The L.A. Times Editorial states “with the 2010 healthcare law soon to providing insurance subsidies and guarantee coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, disabled athletes will not need to win a disability award in California to make sure their healthcare costs are covered.”  Does this mean that the L.A. Times now endorses that U.S. taxpayers and the U.S. Government pay for work-related injuries caused by the NFL? Why not hold the NFL responsible for these injuries?

The NFL’s own study indicates that the costs of all unresolved California workers’ compensation claims will be approximately 1.6 billion dollars.  Again, this would not be paid by the California taxpayer but by the NFL. The NFL is in the hurt business and they should pay for injuries incurred on the job.

Professional athletes who file workers’ compensation claims in the State of California do not have “tenuous” ties to California.  All the players either lived in California or played games/worked in California wherein California taxed their wages and they sustained injuries either specific or cumulative in California.  Every NFL orthopedic doctor who examined these players has medically determined the players sustained work-related injuries in California.

No insurance company, team, or workers’ compensation judge is going to resolve a case in favor of a player unless that player has proven legally that the State of California has jurisdiction over the claim and the player has proven injury was sustained in this state.  The assertion that these claims are somehow “tenuous” is false. 

The NFL and all major professional leagues have numerous teams or business partners in California. These leagues and their business partners consistently do business in our state and therefore should obey our state’s laws, and should not be able to create new laws that only benefit them and no other Californian.  This Bill is strictly corporate welfare.

The most unfair portion of AB-1309 is that every case that has not been adjudicated shall terminate.  It does not matter that a case has been to trial and is waiting on appeal, or that a settled case is waiting on Medicare approval before it is approved by a Workers’ Compensation Judge, or that thousands of players have legally filed claims, or that California doctors’ bills in the tens of millions of dollars will go unpaid, or that injured workers will not be reimbursed for medical bills that were paid out-of-pocket and most devastating, that all these injured workers were relying on the workers’ compensation system to bring them relief.

This Bill, if passed as currently written, will immediately terminate every athlete case in the state, resulting in a 1.6 billion dollar windfall to out-of- state billionaire team owners.  This is according to a NFL sponsored study.

Assemblyman Henry T. Perea’s (D-Fresno) Bill will prevent every California resident athlete who plays for an out-of-state team from applying for workers’ compensation benefits in California. That is correct; our own citizens are barred from seeking workers’ compensation in their home state from which they are hired.

In fact, the NFL is currently suing California residents who have filed claims in California.  The Bill would prevent every athlete who plays for a California team from applying for workers’ compensation benefits in California unless they had eight (8) years of employment with one (1) California team.

The average career of an NFL player is approximately 3.5 years.  Is this the start of new laws that would require selected workers such as police officers, firefighters, prison guards, roofers, truckers, or any profession in California to work for one company for eight (8) years to qualify to apply for workers’ compensation? It is absurd and perhaps, unconstitutional. No other industry or profession has been targeted for the elimination of the ability to apply for workers’ compensation benefits.

In many athlete workers’ compensation case filed in California, evidence has proven time and time again, that the NFL teams failed to give the injured player notice of his workers’ compensation rights despite having knowledge of serious injury.  Due to this conscience pattern of behavior, many players are barred from filing in their home state’s workers’ compensation system by the Statute of Limitations.

Resulting cost shifting of medical costs by the NFL to the U.S. taxpayer appears in almost every case. Virtually every player has paid for medical care out of his own pocket, enrolled in an unsuspecting Private Group Health Plan, or sought medical care through Government agencies, such as Medicare or Social Security Disability.

For example, in one case, the NFL failed to inform a 15-year player that he was suffering from severe kidney damage while he was playing as a result of being administered “trauma IV” injections in combination with a bounty of other powerful prescription medications throughout his career.  Shortly after his career, the kidney damage had become debilitating resulting in the need for dialysis and numerous hospitalizations over several years.

The cost of his medical care, as a result of his NFL injuries, has cost millions of dollars, which was, and is currently being paid Medicare.  Once the player found out his rights for workers’ compensation benefits, the NFL team and their workers’ compensation carrier attempted to delay the case for several years.

Fortunately, the player defied the odds and lived to eventually have his case taken to trial.  He prevailed.  One (1) week after his trial he underwent a kidney transplant from which he is still recovering.  For years taxpayers paid for this player’s medical expenses which were clearly a result of his NFL career.  The team knew of the player’s kidney damage yet failed to notify him of this potential fatal condition.

California taxpayers do not pay workers’ compensation settlements or awards.  The Editorial states that the number of claims by professional athletes on bankrupt insurers have skyrocketed from 50 in 2006 to roughly 400 in 2012, costing all employers more than 70 million dollars so far.  Offers were made to the authors of AB-1309 to remedy this potential cost.

Suggestions were made which would have totally eliminated any costs to the California Insurance Guarantee Association [CIGA]; however, the author of AB-1309 and its’ proponents did not wish to negotiate.

Ironically, California collected over 160 million dollars of taxes from professional athletes in 2011, and that number is expected to rise to over 300 million dollars in 2013.

This Bill, as currently written, is the wrong fix for the wrong problem.

Mel Owens (77 Posts)

Mel Owens, Attorney at Law, is a true Personal Injury Law expert. A former NFL Player, he is well known for his work 'with Worker's Compensation law throughout California. You can find him on Google+, Linked In and Twitter.


One Response to “Setting the Facts Straight About AB 1309”

  1. [...] he is well known for his work with Worker's Compensation law throughout California. Find him on Google+,Linked [...]

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