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Former NFL Saints, Bengals player cannot collect workers comp in Calif.

Former NFL Saints, Bengals player cannot collect workers comp in Calif.

A California workers compensation judge erred in awarding benefits to a former National Football League player who was covered under his team's Ohio workers comp policy, the California Workers Compensation Appeals Board has ruled.

Wesley Carroll, who played as a wide receiver for the New Orleans Saints from 1991 to 1993, played five games in California during that time, according to records from the appeals board. He then played for the Cincinnati Bengals from 1993 to 1994, and played one game in California during that time.

Mr. Carroll, who now owns a business in California, filed a claim for California workers comp benefits in 1996 after a former teammate told him that he might be eligible for cumulative injury benefits in the state, records show. A California workers comp judge ruled in 2009 that Mr. Carroll suffered cumulative trauma during his time with the Saints and Bengals, resulting in a 46% cumulative trauma rating.

However, Mr. Carroll's comp benefits were rescinded in 2010 and the case was remanded by the appeals board after an appeal by the Bengals, which is self-insured, records show. But upon further review after Mr. Carroll's appeal, a California workers comp judge in 2011 awarded him benefits from the Bengals and the Saints.

Workers who are “temporarily employed” in California are barred from filing claims in the state if they are covered by workers comp insurance in the state where they were hired. However, the workers comp judge ruled that Mr. Carroll was “regularly employed” in California because the Saints and Bengals played games in the state as part of their regular season and California income taxes were deducted from Mr. Carroll's pay.


But in its 4-1 en banc decision Tuesday, the California Workers Compensation Appeals Board ruled that Mr. Carroll's California income taxes did not change his temporary employment status in the state.

The board also found that Mr. Carroll's employment status with the Bengals was considered temporary under California workers comp law.

Even “if it is assumed for purposes of argument that applicant regularly played football outside of Ohio while employed by the Bengals, that does not change the fact that he was only 'temporarily' employed in California with that team in 1993,” the comp appeals board ruled.

In a dissent, appeals board Commissioner Marguerite Sweeney said Mr. Carroll and other NFL players could be deemed to be “regularly” employed in California, and that the majority view could hinder workers in other occupations from rightfully collecting California comp benefits.

“Even if applicant's presence in the state was 'temporary' … when he played in one game for the Bengals, that does not mean that he was not also 'regularly' employed in California … because his presence in the state was part of his regular, routine and scheduled duties as a professional football player, as evidenced by the additional five games he played in California while employed by the Saints,” Ms. Sweeney said in her dissent.

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