Former WNBA Player Cannot File Workers Comp Claim in California
A woman who played professional women’s basketball for the Connecticut Sun has been denied a workers comp claim in California, according to a state court of appeals.
Adrienne Johnson, who graduated from Ohio State in 1997, suffered injuries directly related to her sports career. In 2003, she had an MRI that revealed a knee injury. While she is officially signed with the Seattle Storm, she has not played a professional game in 10 years due to her work-related injury.
In 2003, she filed a workers comp claim in Connecticut, and was awarded $30,000 because she played for years with the Connecticut Sun. She filed a workers comp claim in California against the Connecticut Sun in 2006. Although she only played one game in California, the claim was filed before California’s new workers comp reform law was enacted, so Johnson could be treated like other workers who travel to California for work reasons.
Her work-related injuries have since become worse. A medical examiner ruled in 2010 that Johnson suffers from chronic shoulder, hip, spine, and ankle injuries, which are all the result of her professional sports career.
A California workers comp judge awarded her disability indemnity, but the California Workers Compensation Board of Appeals rescinded the award, because she had already received workers comp from Connecticut.
However, Johnson asserted that her injuries were cumulative, allowing her to file for additional workers comp in California, since technically she had been a worker there. However, on Wednesday, December 4th of this year, a three-judge panel in Los Angeles disagreed, and denied her workers comp claim.
“A single basketball game played by a professional player does not create a legitimate interest in injuries that cannot be traced factually to one game. The effect of the California game on the injury is at best de minimis,” Justice Richard Mosk wrote for the court.
Controversial Workers Comp Legislation Could Color Pending Claims
AB 1309 was proposed by Assemblyman Henry T. Perea in February as a way to help prevent exploitation and reduce problems in the California workers comp system. Perea and other supporters of the bill believe that the huge number of workers comp claims from out of state pro athletes overburdens the workers comp court system in California, preventing residential workers’ claims from being resolved in a timely fashion. Professional athletes often receive large awards as well, which hurts employers in the state. And, proponents argue, athletes already receive insurance and medical benefits from the league, plus workers comp benefits in their home states.
The bill was heavily promoted by major sports leagues, including Major League Baseball and the National Football League.
The bill, officially named AB 1309, places limits on the ability of former professional athletes to file workers comp claims in California. The state is one of the few in the nation that recognizes cumulative trauma in workers comp claims, and previously had relatively lax legislation for out-of-state workers, which including professional athletes. It was signed into law in October of this year. While it should not change rulings in workers comp cases that were filed before the bill officially became law, California legislators have long contended that professional sports players abused the previous workers comp system and will most likely look unfavorably at claims as they come up.
The Strom Law Firm Understands Worker’s Comp Legislation
The workers comp lawyers at The Strom Law Firm, LLC proudly seek justice on behalf of employees injured or killed on the job who work for private companies, as well as employees working for local county, city, and state government. We are licensed to practice throughout South Carolina, as well as Georgia and New York. If you are confused about worker’s comp laws, or have had your worker’s comp claim denied, contact us. We offer free consultations to discuss the facts of your case. 803.252.4800.