Unwarranted Workers’ Compensation Insurance Exemption for a Special
Interest: AB 1309
AB 1309 (Perea) shifts NFL owners’ injury costs to taxpayers, aiding
billionaires in avoiding responsibility for players’ injuries, including
dementia, Alzheimer’s, Lou Gehrig’s disease Workers’
compensation is insurance that employers are required to purchase to cover
injuries to employees arising from their work. Shielding billionaire out-of-state
team owners from their liability to provide medical treatment and disability
compensation to their injured players doesn’t have any impact on
the workers’ compensation insurance costs for California employers.
AB 1309 seeks to protect billionaire sports team owners on the backs of
NFL owners are trying to get the California Legislature to enact their
special interest legislation to save them from having to pay for legitimate
work injuries. NFL owners are scared because more and more players are
just now beginning to show the real impact of the damaging blows they
received during their football playing careers. Most frightening for these
billionaire owners is a recent increase in traumatic brain injuries, cases
that can cost the owners millions of dollars in medical costs over the
remaining life of the player.
Medical science has proven that these traumatic brain injuries, which include
dementia, Alzheimer’s, long-term depression, and even ALS (Lou Gehrig’s
disease), are caused by the cumulative impact of repeated concussive collisions
in their professional work. Now, the NFL owners are sponsoring AB 1309
(Perea) to outlaw players from even filing workers’ compensation
insurance claims for these injuries, which would shift these medical and
disability costs to Medicare, Social Security Disability, and group health plans.
The NFL owners have tried to close every possible door to injured players.
First, they denied that football caused the injuries. Now that science
has proven them wrong, they are making players sign contracts pledging
to use only the team’s home state workers’ compensation system.
But some states do not even cover professional athletes, while many other
states do not recognize a “cumulative trauma” claim for injuries
caused by repeated trauma rather than a single occurrence. And most states’
time limitation on filing a claim has long expired by the time retired
players realize how badly their health has deteriorated. Dementia, for
example, has a multi-year latency period, making claims impossible in
Although AB 1309 seems to be aimed only at professional athletes, it would
set a precedent that undercuts workers’ compensation insurance coverage
for pipe welders, traveling salesmen, and many other “everyday occupations.”
The restrictions in AB 1309 could limit the ability of truck drivers,
flight attendants, farm workers, and others who work in multiple states,
to seek medical care and disability compensation for their legitimate
California has historically allowed the filing of a workers’ compensation
insurance claim for all workers injured within the borders of this state,
and, if the injury is proven to be work-related, required employers and
their insurers to provide them with necessary and appropriate medical
care and disability compensation. This would no longer be true as to “professional
athletes,” including minor league players.
AB1309 creates, and then singles out, a special class of employees and
injured workers – professional athletes – from California’s
workers’ compensation insurance system. Although the bill’s
sponsors suggest that all professional athletes earn multi-million dollar
salaries, in fact, the vast majority of affected workers would be playing
for minor league baseball teams in the Pacific Coast League and California
League, the NBA Development League and Women’s NBA, semi-pro football
teams, Arena League football teams, minor league NHL hockey teams, and
even professional soccer teams. Many of these players have earnings that
equate to poverty level, yet they sustain frequent injuries from their
The “Jerry Jones’ Dallas Cowboys” Giveaway
AB 1309 would create a crazy quilt of who’s insured for injuries
and who’s not. AB 1309 outlaws a claim for cumulative trauma or
occupational disease by athletes not employed by a California-based team.
Such players would face a “90-days in California” work requirement
within the last 365 days. This time limit is conveniently set up so that
athletes on teams such as the Dallas Cowboys, who must participate in
a summer training camp for several months annually in
Thousand Oaks, California, would still be barred from filing a claim in
AB 1309 Discriminates Against Athletes to Benefit Billionaire Owners
California law has always allowed workers injured within the state to file
a claim here. But under AB 1309, a Dallas Cowboys player who breaks his
leg in training camp can’t file a claim here. If the team bus bringing
the Cowboys to a game at Candlestick Park is involved in an accident,
and several passengers suffer injuries, none of the players could file
a claim in California, but the team trainer or other team employees could
file a claim here.
After the game starts, the AB 1309 absurdity continues. If a Cowboys player
and a 49er player run into each other and suffer the exact same injury,
the 49er player would be permitted to file a workers’ compensation
insurance claim in California,while the Cowboys player cannot.
In addition, under AB 1309 if an athlete ‘s last year of injurious
exposure is with a team not domiciled in California, the player is barred
from filing a claim in California. Professional athletes get traded from
team to team, and thus from state to state, all the time. Free agency
finds players moving from team to team, state to state, frequently during
their careers. A player’s injurious exposure while playing in California
may be as great or greater than that experienced with the later non-California
franchise, but the injured athlete cannot even file a claim seeking medical
care or compensation for their California employment and exposure under
AB 1309. Even if this athlete ends his or her career “on the bench”
with the out-of-state team and essentially all of the player’s injury
is due to games played for the California employer, that athlete is out of luck.
AB 1309 Prevents Insurance Claims for Injuries that Take Years to Develop
AB 1309 would severely restrict the time for an athlete to file a claim.
Yet, many injuries and medical conditions have medical latency periods.
These injuries do not manifest symptoms of permanent disabilities for
many years. For example, injuries to knees and hips that cause the need
for a total knee or hip replacement take many years to medically manifest
the disability and the need for medical care. Similarly, high velocity
bodily impacts like football blocks and tackles cause brain traumas such
as dementia, and ultimately death, but not until tens of years after sports
employment ends. All along, the team has known that the player will eventually
require a total knee or hip replacement, a wheelchair, or even assisted
living care, yet the team walks away free of liability under AB 1309,
transferring the cost of care to the player or, in most cases, taxpayer
AB 1309 Wipes Out 70 Years of California Law that Prevents Employer Fraud
The impetus for AB 1309 is clear – to deny professional athletes
employed by out of-state teams the right to file a workers’ compensation
insurance claim in California. Not just professional athletes, but any
out-of-state workers who comes to California to work and is injured here
has always been protected by California law and has the right to file
a workers’ compensation claim against their employer’s insurance
company in California. Under AB 1309, however, professional athletes are
singled out, and regardless of whether the athlete was injured in this
state, are not permitted to file a claim here unless he or she meets AB
1309’s “90-days-in-California” requirement.
This bill represents a race to the bottom. These professional athletes
are filing their insurance claims in California because it is the only
state where they can even file an insurance claim against their team.
Many other states do not even recognize cumulative trauma claims. Several
states, including Florida, do not require workers’ compensation
insurance coverage for professional athletes. California recognizes an
injured worker’s right to file a workers’ compensation insurance
claim after the worker learns of his work-related disability, even if
that knowledge arises years after the worker stopped doing the job that
caused the injury, but many other state have no such provision.
AB 1309 is a special interest giveaway hiding behind a CIGA liability.
There are better ways to shield the California Insurance Guaranty Association
(CIGA) from claims against non-California professional sports teams, when
those non-California teams lack insurance coverage. Proponents cite multimillion-dollar
costs to California’s Insurance Guaranty Association, due to many
professional sports teams’ insurers having gone bankrupt. Those
uncovered teams’ liability is shifted to the safety net paid for
by all California employers. But, there are better solutions than to blame
the injured athletes and deprive them of basic workplace injury protections.
Why should injured minor and major league athletes shoulder responsibility
for their teams’ insurance failures? Insulate CIGA from out-of-state
sports teams’ liabilities.
No on AB 1309.
If you have been impacted by a work injury, please contact the office of
Thomas F. Martin PLC immediately by completing a free Case Evaluation
form, or by calling (714) 594-5389. We will review your potential case
at no charge and let you know if we can help!