Jordan v. Minn. Vikings Football Club

Jordan v. Minn. Vikings Football Club, et. al. No. WC23-6545 (W.C.C.A. May 28, 2024).

The Employee was a professional football player for the Minnesota Vikings; he was drafted in 1994 and spent his entire career playing for the Vikings, with the exception of two seasons, until his retirement in 2002.

Throughout his career the Employee sustained a number of injuries though the record was unclear as to whether those injuries occurred in games, practices, or if they occurred in Minnesota or other states.

In 2009 after consulting with the football players union the Employee contacted an attorney commencing a workers’ compensation claim in California. Simultaneously he was also involved in tort litigation related to head injuries; he was a co-claimant in this claim.

During the 2009 litigation two “agreed medical evaluations” occurred. One found an August 8, 1996 and August 5, 1997 injuries and diagnosed with Employee with post-traumatic head syndrome and post-traumatic intermittent headaches. The second found injuries on September 4, 1995, December 3, 1995, August 8, 1996, August 5, 1997, and September 3, 1997 including injuries to his neck, arms, shoulders, elbows, wrists, hands, thumbs, fingers, mid and low back, legs, hips, knees, ankles, feet and toes. All of these injuries were alleged in the current litigation. The California litigation did not assert specific injuries but rather a cumulative injury encompassing the entire career. Ultimately a settlement was reached leavings medicals open and stipulating to future medicals open in 2010. Another settlement was reached in 2011 closing medicals.

In 2023 the Employee filed a Claim Petition in Minnesota alleging 12 specific dates of injury as well as a Gillette injury with a culmination date different from the date in the California claim. The Employer and Insurer filed a motion to dismiss arguing he had already pursued these claims in California and therefore there was not jurisdiction in Minnesota. The Employee filed an objection arguing half the games took place in Minnesota as well as all practices, off-season training camps, and workouts. He expressed lack of understanding of the California claims and settlement. The compensation judge denied the motion to dismiss and the Employer and Insurer appealed.

The WCCA found the basic premise of the workers’ compensation law includes that if an employee sustains an injury for a Minnesota employer in Minnesota it is covered by the Workers’ Compensation Act. In addition, there is jurisdiction if the employer is a Minnesota employer but the injury occurs outside of Minnesota, and when the primary duties of employment are within the state and the injury occurs outside of the state.

There were some issues in the Findings and Order that were not correct or clear, and the WCCA modified the findings to include that the Employee was not sure if all current alleged injuries were included in the California claim; the original findings said they were not. Next, the compensation judge found the Employee primarily performed his duties in Minnesota so she had jurisdiction. There was no evidence in the record for where the injuries occurred, but regardless the court had jurisdiction under the statutory exceptions.

Lastly, the Employer and Insurer argued that even if Minnesota had jurisdiction the jurisdiction was divested by the prior settlement based on an exception to the statute. The WCCA found that the record did not support a determination that the exception elements had been met. There was no evidence that the primary duties of employment were outside the state; rather the judge specifically found that he did have his primary duties in Minnesota and that finding was not appealed. Because not all elements had been met the judge did not err in denying the motion to dismiss.

The motion to dismiss was affirmed.