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The Cincinnati Reds and Cincinnati Bengals have filed lawsuits against former players seeking to prevent them from making workers’ compensation claims against the teams.

The Reds sued Kevin Franklin (Case 2:22-cv-01806) and the Bengals sued Chris Manderino (Case 2:22-c-v01806) in U.S. District Court in the Central District of California. Both ex-players live in California.

Both cases were filed on March 18, 2022 by the same Los Angeles/Orange County base firm representing the two teams. Each had as an exhibit an Application for Adjudication of Claim filed before the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board in California by each player, seeking benefits for claimed industrial injuries as a result of activities of employment.

The allegations of both Complaints for Declarative and Injunctive Relief – Violation of Due Process are similar. Illustrative are the allegations in the Manderino case.

The teams allege that “invocation of WCAB jurisdiction under California Labor Code Sections 3600.5(a) and 5305 violates its right to Due Process of Law under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Those code sections purport to empower the WCAB to exercise personal jurisdiction over out-of-state defendants in a manner that violates the Due Process Clause.”

The teams go on to allege that “Both sections purport to empower the WCAB to exercise personal jurisdiction over an out-of-state employer, even if the employer’s sole connection to California is the execution of an employment contract in California. Thus, those two code sections purport to endow the WCAB with jurisdiction even if the claim is thoroughly unrelated to any activity conducted by the out-of-state defendant in California. Such exercise of jurisdiction by Defendant is incompatible with the traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice required by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.”

They further allege that the players employment contract contained a choice of law/choice of forum clause agreeing that any workers’ compensation claim, dispute, or cause of action arising out of employment with the teams would be governed exclusively by the laws of the State where each team is located and and brought solely and exclusively before the appropriate industrial tribunal of that state.

Sports injury cases for out of state players were common a decade ago. However, AB 1309 was passed by the California Legislature in 2013, and it put limits on out of state players filing claims in California. The new language was added to L.C. 3600.5, and limited the En Banc WCAB decision in Wesley Carroll v. Cincinnati Bengals, et al.(2013).

It will be very interesting to follow these two cases that may have an effect on sports injury industrial claims, one way, or the other.