E-Alert Case Updates
Redskins Wide Receiver “Covered Employee” for Purposes of Maryland Workers’ Compensation Claim Due to Home Games at FedEx Field in Maryland, and in Spite of Practice Time in Virginia
Pro-Football, Inc. v. McCants
Darnerien McCants (“McCants”), Respondent, played wide receiver for the Washington Redskins professional football team between 2002 and 2004. McCants sustained six (6) injuries while playing for the Redskins on four (4) separate occasions during the 2003 and 2004 National Football League (NFL) season. Consequently, he filed with the Maryland Workers Compensation Commission (the Commission) six (6) separate claims against his employer, Petitioner, Pro-Football, Inc., d/b/a The Washington Redskins (“Redskins”), to recover compensation for those injuries.
The Commission denied five (5) of McCants’ six (6) claims on the ground that he was not a “covered employee” under MD. CODE ANN., LAB. & EMPL. § 9-203, because he was working for the Redskins outside of the State when he sustained the injuries underlying the claims. McCants petitioned for judicial review of the Commission’s decision to the Circuit Court for Prince George’s County, which affirmed. The Court of Special Appeals reversed the decision in an unreported opinion, holding that Respondent was a “covered employee” within the meaning of the law. The Redskins thereafter petitioned the Court of Appeals on the issue of whether a football player employed by the Washington Redskins is a “covered employee,” and therefore entitled to avail himself of Maryland’s workers’ compensation laws, when injured while practicing and playing football outside of Maryland. The Court of Appeals of Maryland affirmed the Court of Special Appeals, and held that McCants was indeed a “covered employee” for purposes of Maryland workers’ compensation laws.
While the Redskins have a significant fan base in Washington D.C., it is actually incorporated in Maryland, and half of its games are played at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland. The remaining games are played in stadiums at different locations around the country. The team’s practice facility is located in Ashburn, Virginia. Under Section 9-203(a)(2), an individual, like McCants, working across state lines may qualify as a covered employee if the individual works “regularly” in Maryland and on a “casual, incidental, or occasional basis” outside of the state. The parties specifically disputed whether McCants’ work in Maryland, i.e. participating in ten (10) football games at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland, constituted regular employment in the state; and whether the substantial time McCants spent in Virginia practicing and preparing for football games could be characterized as “casual, incidental, or occasional” under § 9-203(a)(2).
The Court of Appeals reasoned that the purpose of a football player’s employment with a professional football team is to play in professional football games. It is not, as the Redskins seemingly contended, to practice. Applying § 9-203(a)(2) to these circumstances, the Court held that Respondent was regularly employed in Maryland while he played for the Redskins between 2002 and 2004. He was working for the Redskins while he played in football games. His contract contemplated that, if healthy, he would play in 24 regular season games and six (6) pre-season games in Maryland over the three (3) years of his employment. The remaining thirty (30) games would be played in various jurisdictions across the United States. Because McCants was regularly employed in Maryland while playing football games here, his presence in other jurisdictions for practice or playing purposes necessarily was merely incidental or occasional, respectively. McCants’ practice time in Virginia was a subordinate, ancillary, incidental consequence of his employment with the team. Moreover, the amount of time McCants spent playing at away games was only “occasional” for purposes of § 9-203(a)(2). The Court of Appeals therefore held that McCants was a “covered employee” for purposes of § 9-203.
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