January 15, 2013
Professor Melissa Brown does not normally follow football, but she has found herself paying more attention of late to the sport. Her new-found interest follows her retention as an expert witness for the NFL Players' Association at an arbitration hearing involving a workers' compensation law dispute with NFL owners. The arbitration, and the flurry of lawsuits involving NFL injuries, is part of the growing recognition of the impact the game has on the long-term health of the players.
Brown, the supervising attorney of McGeorge's Elder & Health Law Clinic, traveled to Philadelphia on November 15, 2012, to testify as part of a two-day arbitration. The owners filed a grievance alleging that the players' filing of workers' comp claims in California, instead of the team's home state, is in violation of their collective bargaining agreement.
"I was brought in as an expert on California law, which offers greater protections than are afforded in most other states," said Brown, a partner at Farrell, Fraulob & Brown in Sacramento. An associate professor of legal lawyering skills, Brown has been listed in Best Lawyers in America for more than 15 years in the workers' comp category, has written extensively on the subject, and sits on the editorial boards of several legal treatises and casebooks.
"When I walked into a hotel conference room for a pre-arbitration meeting with the players and their attorneys, I was the smallest person in the room," Brown said. "These elite athletes have serious injuries with life-long residual disability consequences that impact their lives each day. Adequate benefits and protections are critical because careers are often cut short due to injuries. Workers' comp laws in many states fall short of meeting the needs of injured players."
There has been a surge in lawsuits involving NFL injuries. The arbitration decision, expected this spring, will be among the first issued since the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals' August 2012 ruling that recognized the right of out-of-state NFL players to file injury claims in California.
"I know law students sometimes are bored with a particular first-year class, but this case demonstrates how concepts of the Civil Procedure course play out in the real world," Brown said. "Considering whether players have sufficient contacts with California to invoke jurisdiction over their injuries gives International Shoe new life ... especially when the shoes have cleats!"