Contract Case

Michael Barrow v. Washington Redskins, (WCAB Panel Decision, Writ Denied, 10-11-12).

The WCAB reversed the Trial Judge and found that an applicant must present sufficient evidence to show that a contract was actually accepted, and thus became binding, within California’s borders. Without such evidence, the WCAB cannot exercise jurisdiction pursuant to Labor Code §5305 over applicant’s claim against the Dallas Cowboys for an injury sustained outside of the State. The WCAB found applicant’s contract of hire with the Dallas Cowboys was not made in California, and thus the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board has no jurisdiction over applicant’s claim against the Dallas Cowboys for the alleged industrial injury sustained outside of California.

The WCAB found that Labor Code §5305 is applicable to out-of-state injuries when the contract of hire was made in California. The WCAB noted in the current matter neither the employer nor the applicant was located within the State at the time of acceptance. The contract between applicant and the Dallas Cowboys was connected to California only through the actions of applicant’s California agent. The WCAB noted the critical issue is whether the acceptance took place in California. They further noted California has adopted the rule that an oral contract consummated over the telephone is deemed made where the offeree utters the words of “acceptance.” However in this case, the WCAB found insufficient evidence to support applicant’s contention that the contract was accepted when the agent informed the Dallas Cowboys that applicant had accepted the team’s last offer. The agent testified that he did not have authority to accept or reject defendant’s offer. The Court noted there was no evidence in the record suggesting that applicant, his employer, or his agent believe that the contract was complete and fully enforceable based on Mr. Barrow’s oral acceptance and signature alone. The Court noted the applicant traveled from home to sign the contract out-of- state, suggesting that the parties to the agreement believe the contract required Mr. Barrow to personally express his acceptance.

The Court noted this does not mean that in all cases an employee must have actually signed a contract in California before the WCAB can exercise jurisdiction under Labor Code §5305, nor does it mean the employee must always be physically present in California at the time of contract formation.