Forum Selection Clauses

Bryan Kelly Holcomb v. Indianapolis Colts, 2014 Cal. Wrk. Comp. PD LEXIS 20,  (January 13, 2014).

WCAB affirmed Workers Compensation Judge’s determination that California had no jurisdiction over applicant’s claim for injuries to multiple body parts while playing professional football for various teams from November 27, 1996 to February 27, 2008, based on applicant’s agreement to reasonable mandatory forum selection clause and California’s limited connection to applicant’s employment and alleged cumulative trauma. WCAB further found applicant did not demonstrate that he was hired in California through his agent for purposes of conferring jurisdiction under Labor Code Section 5305 and 3600.5 (a). Judge found insufficient evidence that applicant’s agent was in California at the time of the offer to applicant, and also found applicant did not necessarily accept the contract during the telephone call. The court determined there was no California contract and that there was a reasonable forum selection clause. The court reiterated the principle that in general, forum selection clauses are presumed valid unless (1) the clause was the product of fraud or overreaching; (2) enforcement would be unreasonable and unjust; (3) proceedings in the contractual forum will be so gravely difficult and inconvenient that the party challenging the clause will for all practical purposes be deprived of his day in court and; (4) enforcement would contravene a strong public policy of the forum in which suit is brought, whether declared by statute or by judicial decision.

 

Mazio Royster v. NFL Europe,  2014 Cal Wrk. Comp. PD LEXIS 445, (September 9, 2014).

WCAB found California jurisdiction based on California contract with invalid forum selection clause. Applicant was employed by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from April 15, 1992 to February 1995, and by NFL Europe from February 1997 to June 11, 1997. WCAB determined there was jurisdiction over applicant’s claim against NFL Europe because his contract for hire with that team was made in California as acceptance of employment took place in California as oral contract is made in California if accepting party resides in California. Contract of hire will be considered to have been made in California even if actual contract is signed out of state, or if certain out of state contingencies must be performed before applicant can assume work duties as these are factors deemed condition subsequent which do not prevent formation of contract. The applicant asserted he was at home in California when he accepted the contract for hire even though there were conditions subsequent to the acceptance.

Additionally, court determined that the forum selection clause in applicant’s NFL Europe employment contract designating Georgia as state with exclusive jurisdiction, neither deprived WCAB of jurisdiction nor provided basis for declining to exercise jurisdiction over claim when WCAB found that when the contract of hire is made in California, this in itself confers California jurisdiction over the case and that the forum selection clause contravenes language in Labor Code 5000 that “no contract shall exempt the employer from liability for compensation” and Labor Code 3600.5 (a) and 5305 stating that, where contract of hire was made in California, employee shall be entitled to compensation provided by law, and that public policy provisions of Labor Code Section 3600.5 (a), 5000 and 5305 preclude enforcement of forum selection clause in applicant’s contract absent showing that the clause outweighed public policy reflected in the statutes.

 

Reginald Germany v. Buffalo Bills, 2014 Cal Wrk. Comp. PD LEXIS 496, (September 9, 2014).

WCAB found a forum selection clause valid and that there were not enough minimum contacts to exercise jurisdiction in California. WCAB found there was a reasonable choice of law clause in the applicant’s employment contract specifying New York as proper jurisdiction for employment disputes and fact that applicant had previously filed workers’ compensation claim in New York and received award in New York alone was persuasive as to the parties’ contractual intentions relative to which state law should govern. WCAB further found that applicant’s contacts with the state of California were minimal per the case of Federal Insurance Company v. WCAB (Johnson) (2013), 221 Cal. App. 4th 1116. During applicant’s career he only participated in two games and two practices in California which was not enough to establish subject matter jurisdiction.

 

Reginald Clark v. Green Bay Packers et al., 2015 Cal Wrk. Comp. PD LEXIS 180, (March 30, 2015).

WCAB affirmed Workers’ Compensation Judge’s finding that California had jurisdiction over professional football player’s claim for a cumulative trauma injury with various teams from April 29, 1991 to August 20, 1997 and specifically over the Green Bay Packers. The WCAB found there was a more than limited connection between applicant’s injury and state of California because applicant sustained cumulative injury while regularly employed by San Diego Chargers during portion of the cumulative trauma period, and that because Labor Code Section 5500.5 allocates liability for applicant’s injury to Green Bay, it would be unreasonable and contrary to public policy underlying state constitution and workers’ compensation law as set forth in Labor Code Section 3600.5(a), 5305, as well as inconsistent with Labor Code 5000 to decline jurisdiction over Green Bay based on choice of law forum selection clause in employment contract. The substantial legitimate connection between California and applicant’s employment and injury led the WCAB to conclude that it would be unreasonable to enforce the choice of law provision in the Green Bay employment contract by declining to exercise jurisdiction over applicant’s claim. The main reason the WCAB seemed to not enforce the forum selection clause was because applicant was regularly employed with a California team in California during a portion of the alleged cumulative trauma injury.

 

Andrick Corey Jackson v. Cleveland Browns,  2015 Cal. Wrk. Comp. PD LEXIS 132, (March 13, 2015).

WCAB found subject matter jurisdiction declining to enforce choice of law\forum selection clause in professional football player’s employment contract with Cleveland Browns when they determined applicant was hired in the state of California based on evidence that his agent was authorized by applicant to accept contracts on applicant’s behalf and that applicant was bound by terms negotiated and agreed to by his agent in California. Because applicant’s contract of hire was made in California, it was enough to provide sufficient support to exercise jurisdiction over applicant’s workers’ compensation claim and defendant presented no admissible evidence or valid basis for judge to overturn prior finding of jurisdiction.