Ninth Circuit Finds No Jurisdiction in Former NFL Player’s Lawsuit

On May 19, 2016, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed a lower court’s dismissal of a lawsuit bought by Travelers Indemnity Company regarding workers’ compensation benefits paid to former National Football League player Jim Rourke.

Rourke, an offensive lineman who played with multiple teams including the Kansas City Chiefs and New Orleans Saints in the 1980s, filed a claim in California for cumulative injuries as a result of his time in the NFL, including in games played in California. Travelers insured the Kansas City Chiefs in connection with Rourke’s claim and ultimately settled the claim for $199,999. Thereafter, Travelers brought suit in the District Court for the Central District of California against the New Orleans Saints on various theories of liability and seeking reimbursement in connection with payments paid to Rourke on based on a question of apportionment of the injuries as between Rourke’s playing time with both teams. Among other findings, the District Court agreed with the Saints’ position that the exclusive forum for this dispute was the California Workers’ Compensation Board.

Ultimately, the Ninth Circuit agreed. The Court of Appeals cited California’s Labor Code, noting that the California Workers’ Compensation Board had the “exclusive authority to hear claims “[f]or the recovery of [workers’] compensation, or concerning any right or liability arising out of or incidental thereto” and ruled that a limited exception to that rule involving uninsured employers was not applicable in the matter. As a result, the Court of Appeals found that any claims for reimbursement to be made by Travelers would need to be pursued in the proper forum.

For more, see Travelers Indem. Co. v. New Orleans La. Saints L.L.C., 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 9176 (May 19, 2016).

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