Gov. Jerry Brown has signed into law a bill that will prevent many professional athletes from filing workers’ compensation claims in California.
The bill, AB 1309, applies to athletes who played for teams outside of California or had limited experience playing on California teams. According to the story in the Los Angeles Times, they will no longer be allowed to make claims in the Golden State for cumulative trauma, a category of injury incurred over time that includes arthritis as well as certain brain injuries like chronic traumatic encepalopathy.
In recent years, thousands of athletes who played for teams elsewhere in the country have filed such claims in California because its workers’ compensation system – unlike many others – recognizes cumulative trauma. In addition, the state’s statute of limitations had a provision allowing some workers to file years or even decades after retirement. Some players made filings having played only a handful of games in California over the course of their careers.
Backers of the bill, including the National Football League, Major League Baseball and the other major sports leagues, argued that such filings were overly costly and that the athletes should be filing in their home states. “This new law sets reasonable standards to close an expensive loophole unique to California and to professional sports,” Dennis Kuhl, chairman of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim baseball team, said in a statement.
Opponents, among them the players’ unions and organized labor, argued that it unfairly excludes one class of workers from the state’s system. Flight attendants and truck drivers – who also spend time in California, though they may not be employed in the state – will still be allowed to file such claims. In addition, they argued that the players were filing in California because they were prevented from making such claims in the states where they played, either due to a more restrictive statute of limitations or because the state doesn’t recognize cumulative trauma.
Although some high-profile athletes, including NFL Hall-of-Famer Deion Sanders and MLB most valuable player Juan Gonzalez, have made such claims, claims data show that most claims by athletes were filed by lesser-known professionals, including many who played only in the minor leagues.
The new law applies only to football, baseball, basketball, ice hockey and soccer players. Under a provision adopted shortly prior to its passage in the Senate in late August, it is effective as of Sept. 15, meaning any claims filed after that date by out-of-state athletes will not be valid.
AB 1309 passed overwhelmingly in both houses of the state legislature, garnering only five “no” votes in its final version.
The legislative victory follows news last month that the NFL had reached a tentative $765-million settlement with more than 4,500 former players who had sued the league over allegations that it did not properly warn them about the risks associated with concussions.