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LANSING, Mich.—The Detroit Lions are backing Michigan's proposed workers compensation reform, in part because they believe it would help limit the organization's liability from aging football players filing claims in California, according to a letter from the team to Michigan legislators.
H.B. 5002, introduced late last month by Rep. Brad Jacobsen, R-Oxford, would modify the Michigan Workers' Disability Compensation Act of 1969.
Among various changes in the 32-page bill is a section that would exempt professional athletes from Michigan's workers compensation law if they played for a team outside of the state, were injured while playing only temporarily in Michigan, and are covered by workers compensation law in another state.
The bill would also exempt athletes from Michigan's workers comp system if another state recognizes extraterritorial provisions in Michigan law and provides a reciprocal exemption for injuries occurring while in that state.
The legislation takes aim at a loophole in the National Football League's collective bargaining agreement, which allows players to file workers compensation claims in states where their teams are not based. In particular, California law allows players to make a claim in California if they have played at least one game in the state.
In a letter to Michigan's House Commerce Committee last month, the Detroit Lions said workers compensation claims from California have become burdensome for the team and its insurance carrier, Liberty Mutual Group Inc.
“Needless to say, these California claims are putting a huge strain on our organization in terms of the time required to gather the information and documentation necessary to fight these sometimes baseless claims,” reads the letter from Jonathan Dykema, staff counsel for the Lions.
The NFL team noted that its “collective insurance carriers currently have a backlog of thousands of claims to resolve in California just related to the NFL, some dating back several decades,” and contends that the situation could lead to higher premiums for other Michigan businesses.
The Michigan Chamber of Commerce announced its backing Tuesday for a new comprehensive workers compensation reform bill.