Several consolidated case between former players and the New Your Giants were set for arbitration between the team and the New York State Insurance Fund. The Giants sought reimbursement for defense costs and indemnity expenses incurred as a result of the workers’ compensation claims filed by the former players.
In his decision the Arbitrator found that there was a contract of workers’ compensation insurance between NYSIF and employer New York Giants from September 24, 1975 to January 1, 1977, that requires NYSIF “to indemnify [the Giants] for any benefits awarded and to present a defense to the claims” that were consolidated for hearing of the coverage issue by the Arbitrator, and that NYSIF “does not have a valid claim of sovereign immunity with respect to the claims.” Based upon those findings, the Arbitrator ordered NYSIF to indemnify the Giants for all reasonable legal expenses and costs incurred in defending the claims and to indemnify the Giants against any award made in favor of its former employees.
The New York State Insurance Fund petitioned for reconsideration. The WCAB denied the petition and affirmed the arbitrators award in the panel decision of Larry Watkins, el. al. v New York State Insurance Fund.
The Giants secured workers’ compensation insurance coverage through NYSIF for a period between September 24, 1975 to January 1, 1977. However, during that time approximately one-half of the Giants’ games were away games that were played on the opponents’ home fields outside of New York. All home games from October 10, 1976 to the end of NYSIF’s period of coverage, two full seasons worth of home games, were played at the Giant’s newly built stadium located at the Meadowlands Sports Complex in East Rutherford, New Jersey, which is where the team was headquartered and the players practiced and trained.
NYSIF contends that it was created under New York law and has sovereign immunity from suit in California, and that the New York statutes preclude it from defending or paying claims for workers’ compensation filed outside of New York for injuries sustained outside of New York. NYSIF further contends that it is not authorized to write insurance in California, that the decision of the Arbitrator is not supported by the evidence, that the Arbitrator should have applied the principle of comity to determine that NYSIF is not liable, and that the limited connections between the consolidated cases at issue and the state of California does not support WCAB jurisdiction over the claims.
Coverage B of the policy provides that NYSIF will “indemnify” the Giants “against loss by reason of the liability imposed upon [it] by Law for damages on account of such injuries to such employees wherever such injuries may be sustained … ” There is no evidence of any limitation or exclusion from the Coverage B provisions. In the absence of any such limiting or exclusionary language, Coverage B supports the Arbitrator’s determination that NYSIF provided insurance coverage for injuries sustained by Giants’ employees outside of New York and for claims filed in other states.
The language of an insurance policy must be clear in describing exclusions and limitations on coverage, and the specimen policy placed into evidence does not clearly limit NYSIF to only defending and paying workers’ compensation claims filed in New York. Moreover, any such limitation would be inconsistent with the fact that during the coverage period at issue, the vast majority of employment duties performed by the covered employees were outside of New York.