Parker vs. Indy Fuel Hockey & Great Divide

Posted: January 28, 2018

JONATHAN PARKER – PERSONAL JURISDICTION IN CA WORKERS’ COMPENSATION

In most cases, when a lack of jurisdiction is asserted in a CA workers’ compensation claim, it’s because we are asserting that there is no subject matter jurisdiction over the claim. The CA Labor Code prescribes when one may be subject to jurisdiction for CA workers’ compensation benefits: when the injury occurred in CA; when an employee is regularly employed in California, but the injury happened outside the state or when an employee is hired in CA. If one of those three tests is met, an employer is subject to jurisdiction in California unless there is an exception under which the employer falls (Labor Code section 3600.5(b)) or unless the claimant was a professional athlete who did not satisfy the conditions of Labor Code section 3600.5(d).

The case of Jonathan Parker is unusual in that the employer was claiming they were not subject to PERSONAL jurisdiction in California, in other words you can’t make us come defend a case there or pay benefits in CA as we don’t have enough contact with the state to even force us to defend the underlying case in California.

Subject matter jurisdiction is best understood by thinking, “is the law of this state applicable to my situation”? Personal jurisdiction is essentially, “Is there enough of a connection to California that we can haul this defendant in to California to defend this case?”

In Parker, a minor league Hockey Club asserted that despite having hired an employee in California, they were not subject to California law as they do not have sufficient contacts with California to subject them to personal jurisdiction in CA.

The WCAB ruled that their claim as to a lack of personal jurisdiction was waived when their attorneys appeared and conducted discovery. They did not rule on the underlying argument of whether hiring a player in CA was enough to subject them to being hauled before the WCAB to defend a claim, instead deciding that the argument was waived by their attorney conducting discovery and not seeking immediate adjudication of the personal jurisdictional defense.

In our opinion, for our clients, the take away here is this: Major League Baseball has for years been left to pay benefits on claims where their former players finish their careers in the Independent Leagues with unaffiliated minor league teams. These minor league teams have snubbed their nose at the responsibility to defend and pay benefits to their former employees in CA. If those teams can avoid personal jurisdiction in these cases even when they hire their players in CA, it leaves open the possibility of MLB clubs continuing to foot the bill for the unaffiliated minor league club obligations. Our firm will not represent the unaffiliated minor league clubs for this very reason. Are your attorneys raising arguments advancing defenses for their other clients which may impact your liability and defenses on cases? Maybe you should take a look at who they represent and whether they are taking positions on cases adverse to your interest.

Click here to view the Order Denying Defendant’s Petition for Reconsideration

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