Tuesday, June 11, 2013

How A Federal Take Over Could Occur

Last week I wrote about the expanding influence, and perhaps, jurisdiction of the federal government over our lives, and in particular (of course) workers' compensation.

Yesterday I argued that California Assembly Bill 1309 was bad law and should not get to the governor's desk.

The two may come together - when we look at the various legal and legislative/ regulatory actions going on regarding professional athlete injuries and the politics across the nation concerning the limitation of jurisdiction - we see argument why workers' compensation may need uniformity and consolidation; ergo, federal control.

I'm not saying I'm in favor of a federal take over of workers' compensation, but look at these facts and tell me whether or not, if you were a federal legislator, you would be inclined to mandate a federal system of workers' compensation, at least for professional sports that cross state lines whether via live participation or virtually via television or other media, and other migratory industries.

After arbitrator Michael H. Beck on Dec. 12 issued a decision saying football players signed contracts agreeing to file work comp claims in the state where the team was located, rejecting the player's arguments that the order violated a federal court ruling stating that there needs to be an opportunity to demonstrate where the injuries occurred, a federal judge has granted a hearing on a proposed order that would overturn Beck's decision.

In July, a federal judge in Philadelphia is expected to rule on whether former players can sue the National Football League about concussion-related injuries. An estimated 4,300 former players have filed lawsuits that have been consolidated in the U.S. District Court for Eastern Pennsylvania but the NFL seeks dismissal on the argument that the suits are preempted by the collective-bargaining agreement between the league and the NFL Players Association.

In April, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed a bill similar to California's AB 1309 that prohibits people working for employers in the state from filing work comp claims for injuries sustained while working temporarily in another state.

Other states have also passed laws limiting the ability of professional sports athletes to seek redress in states other than that of the players' contractual domicile, most recently Florida and Tennessee.

Then on Thursday a district court judge in Washington, D.C., allowed Bryan Namoff, a former soccer player to proceed with a $12 million civil suit against his former team for medical negligence alleging his former team, D.C. United, allowed him to play too soon after a head injury.

Judge Natalia M. Combs Greene said D.C. United didn’t have insurance and wasn’t exempt from suit as a consequence.

“The liability of D.C. Soccer is clearly outside the coverage of the WCA,” she wrote. “D.C. Soccer failed to secure workmen’s compensation insurance coverage for Namoff and the WCA grants an employee the right to bring a case at law against an employer who fails to secure such coverage.”

Don't forget the disparity between state jurisdictions on how to handle the ongoing issue of opioids and other prescription drugs.

Some states have drug monitoring programs, others don't. Some states restrict drug repackaging, most others don't.

The migration of drugs across state lines occurs as soon as a neighboring state implements restrictions that impede the prescription, procurement, delivery or ingestion of drugs.

Where's the Food and Drug Administration in all of this?

And don't forget the financial impact of big insurance across state lines, in particular when an insurance company is "too big to fail" and the federal government is inclined to bail that company out, all while evidence mounts that there was surreptitious use of questionable financial instruments to avoid premium taxes and other state obligations.

Still to this day, there are fights between states regarding failed workers' compensation carriers - New York's Liquidation Bureau has filed a petition in New York Supreme Court seeking to be appointed ancillary receiver of Ullico Casualty Co. while in Illinois the Circuit Court of Cook County has refused to stay proceedings involving Ullico despite a Delaware court order to the contrary.

Fights between jurisdictions, big money on the line, worker rights over safety and benefits, inconsistency in awards or order enforcement, migratory claims and drugs - the list can go on why some federal lawmakers may want to carve out certain jobs and industries and make them subject solely to federal jurisdiction.

Combine the above with a federal agency examining workers' compensation across the nation, a federal insurance oversight office, and overall expansion of the federal government and it's not hard to see how a federal take over of at least a portion of state workers' compensation systems could occur.

I'm not saying this is inevitable, desirable or reprehensible. I'm just saying ...

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