AB 1309 Signed Into Law: New Bar Officially Raised Against “Cumulative Trauma” Type Claims in California

In prior articles (see “Closing the California Workers’ Compensation Loophole: AB 1309 Awaits Governor’s Signature” and “Stemming the California Workers’ Compensation “Gold Rush”: AB 1309”), we have been tracking the status of controversial Assembly Bill 1309, a bill introduced in order to halt “cumulative trauma” claims filed by current or former athletes from across several professional leagues who may have had limited playing time in the State of California, but have filed claims there in order to take advantage of its more-lenient workers’ compensation system.

Following bipartisan approval in the California Senate and Assembly, Governor Jerry Brown approved AB 1309 on October 8. The bill, as amended through the California legislature, sets up carefully defined situations in which an out-of-state sports player may file a “cumulative trauma” claim in California. While accidental injuries occurring within the state of California will still be covered, the signed version of the bill prevents out-of-state athletes who have spent less than 20 percent of their playing careers in California from filing a “cumulative trauma” type claim. The bill’s intent is to prevent players who have had little-to-no playing time in the State of California from filing claims to seek quick settlements or long-term indemnity benefits. As more becomes known with respect to the long-term effects of concussions and the disorder known as CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy), this bill will certainly go a long way towards protecting California from claims filed by athletes who never played on a California-based team or who played only a handful of games there.

Ultimately, as the bill selectively targets athletes for exclusion from the workers’ compensation system, litigation as to the bill’s constitutionality seems likely.

For more on the legislative history of AB 1309, see here.

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