You Be the Judge

NFL Player Claims Workers’ Comp Injury, But Which State Holds Jurisdiction Over His Contract?

Although he only played two games in California, this football player claimed the state had jurisdiction over his injury claim. The court had to decide.
By: | July 30, 2018 • 3 min read

A former football player for the Indianapolis Colts, Buffalo Bills and Seattle Seahawks filed a claim for workers’ compensation benefits in California, alleging injury to multiple body parts through the course of his National Football League career.

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During his career, he played around 110 football games but only played two games in California. The football teams and insurers denied his claim.

Two of the teams disputed the assertion of California jurisdiction. The player said that he was living in California when he signed his Indianapolis contract.

He asserted that he did not remember where he was when he signed the agreement but that his agent, whose principal place of business was in California, negotiated the terms of the agreement.

The workers’ compensation judge found that the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board (WCAB) had jurisdiction over the claim for benefits, finding that his agent negotiated the contract in California.

The WCAB reversed, finding that the player and his agent were not in California when the employment was accepted and the contract was signed. The WCAB also found that the limited number of games the player played in California undermined a finding of jurisdiction.

The player appealed.

Did the WCAB properly determine that California lacked jurisdiction over his claim?

How the Court Ruled

  • A. No. The player had been hired in California when his agent negotiated the contract terms.
  • B. Yes. The player’s contract was not formed in California.
  • C. No. Even though the player was not hired in California, he played two games in the state that contributed to his cumulative injury.

A is incorrect. The court explained the parties did not sign the agreement in California. The fact that the agent negotiated the contract terms in California was not enough.

C is incorrect. The court rejected the player’s argument that the WCAB had jurisdiction over his claim, because he played two games in California during his career, which contributed to his cumulative injury. The court found that the player’s cumulative injury occurred at his retirement rather than during any particular game, including the two games played in California.

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B is correct. In Tripplett v. Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board, et al., No. G054825 (Cal. Ct. App. 06/28/18, unpublished), the California Court of Appeal held that it did not have jurisdiction over the player’s claim.

The court explained that when courts have the issue of determining the location at which an injured worker was hired for purposes of workers’ compensation law, they apply traditional principles of contract law.

Here, the agent’s negotiations were the only contract-related activity that took place in California. The court noted that the player said he had such trust in his agent, he did what the agent advised, but he acknowledged that he had “the final say.” The court found no basis to conclude the contract was formed in California.

The court found that the outcome remained the same even if the agent had authority to bind him to an oral agreement. The court pointed out the written agreement included a clause specifying it superseded any prior oral agreement entered into between the parties.

Editor’s note: This feature is not intended as instructional material or to replace legal advice.

Christina Lumbreras is a Legal Editor for Workers' Compensation Report, a publication of our parent company, LRP Publications. She can be reached at [email protected]

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

The Profession

For This Pharmaceutical Risk Director, Managing Risk Means Being Part of the Mission to Save Lives

Meet Eric Dobkin, director, insurance and risk management, for Merck & Co. Inc.
By: | September 28, 2018 • 5 min read

R&I: What was your first job?
My first job out of undergrad was as an actuarial trainee at Chubb.I was a math major in school, and I think the options for a math major coming out are either a teacher or an actuary, right? Anyway, I was really happy when the opportunity at Chubb presented itself. Fantastic company. I learned a lot there.

R&I: How did you come to work in risk management?
After I went back to get my MBA, I decided I wanted to work in corporate finance. When I was interviewing, one of the opportunities was with Merck. I really liked their mission, and things worked out. Given my background, they thought a good starting job would be in Merck’s risk management group. I started there, rotated through other areas within Merck finance but ultimately came back to the Insurance & Risk Management group. I guess I’m just one of those people who enjoy this type of work.

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R&I: What is risk management doing right?
I think the community is doing a good job of promoting education, sharing ideas and advancing knowledge. Opportunities like this help make us all better business partners. We can take these ideas and translate them into actionable solutions to help our companies.

R&I: What could the risk management community be doing a better job of?
I think we have made good advancements in articulating the value proposition of investing in risk management, but much more can be done. Sometimes there is such a focus on delivering immediate value, such as cost savings, that risk management does not get appropriate attention (until something happens). We need to develop better tools that can reinforce that risk management is value-creating and good for operational efficiency, customers and shareholders.

R&I: What’s been the biggest change in the risk management and insurance industry since you’ve been in it?
I’d actually say there hasn’t been as much change as I would have hoped. I think the industry speaks about innovation more often than it does it. To be fair, at Merck we do have key partners that are innovators, but some in the industry are less enthusiastic to consider new approaches. I think there is a real need to find new and relevant solutions for large, complex risks.

R&I: What emerging commercial risk most concerns you?
Cyber risk. While it’s not emerging anymore, it’s evolving, dynamic and deserves the attention it gets. Merck was an early adopter of risk transfer solutions for cyber risk, and we continue to see insurance as an important component of the overall cyber risk management framework. From my perspective, this risk, more than any other, demands continuous forward-thinking to ensure we evolve solutions.

R&I: What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career?
Sticking with the cyber theme, I’d say navigating through a cyber incident is right up there. In June 2017, Merck experienced a network cyber attack that led to a disruption of its worldwide operations, including manufacturing, research and sales. It was a very challenging environment. And managing the insurance claim that resulted has been extremely complex. But at the same time, I have learned a tremendous amount in terms of how to think about the risk, enterprise resiliency and how to manage through a cyber incident.

R&I: What advice might you give to students or other aspiring risk managers?
Have strong intellectual curiosity. Always be willing to listen and learn. Ask “why?” We deal with a lot of ambiguity in our business, and the more you seek to understand, the better you will be able to apply those learnings toward developing solutions that meet the evolving risk landscape and needs of the business.

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R&I: What role does technology play in your company’s approach to risk management?
We’re continuing to look for ways to apply technology. For example, being able to extract and leverage data that resides in our systems to evaluate risk, drive efficiencies and make things like property-value reporting easier. We’re also looking to utilize data visualization tools to help gain insights into our risks.

R&I: What are your goals for the next five to 10 years of your career?
I think, at this time, I would like to continue to learn and grow in the type of work I do and broaden my scope of responsibilities. There are many opportunities to deliver value. I want to continue to focus on becoming a stronger business partner and help enable growth.

R&I: What is your favorite book or movie?
I’d say right now Star Wars is top on my list. It has been magical re-watching and re-living the series I watched as a kid through the eyes of my children.

R&I: What is the riskiest activity you ever engaged in? When I was about 15, I went to a New York Rangers versus Philadelphia Flyers game at the Philadelphia Spectrum. I wore my Rangers jersey. I would not do that again.

Eric Dobkin, director, insurance & risk management, Merck & Co. Inc

R&I: What is it about this work you find most fulfilling or rewarding?
I am passionate about Merck’s mission of saving and improving lives. “Inventing for Life” is Merck’s tagline. It’s funny, but most people don’t associate “inventing” with medicine. But Merck has been inventing medicines and vaccines for many of the world’s most challenging diseases for a long time. It’s amazing to think the products we make can help people fight terrible diseases like cancer. Whatever little bit I can do to help advance that mission is very fulfilling and rewarding.

R&I: What do your friends and family think you do?
Ha! My kids think I make medicine. I guess they think that because I work for Merck. I suppose if even in a small way I can contribute to Merck’s mission of saving and improving lives, I am good with that. &




Katie Dwyer is an associate editor at Risk & Insurance®. She can be reached at [email protected]