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Sunday, June 23, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Indoor Football Players Lose Workers’ Comp Bid

(CN) - Three professional indoor football players cannot receive workers' compensation benefits for injuries they suffered on their home field, an Illinois appeals court ruled.

Maurice Talton, Robert J. Lash and Jaa Valentine signed individual contracts with the Rock River Raptors of the Continental Indoor Football League for the 2009 season.

All three players were hurt during home games in Rockford, Ill. They applied for benefits with the Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission.

Championship Investments LLC, the purported owner of the Raptors, had an insurance policy with West Bend Mutual Insurance Co., which began paying benefits to Talton and Lash.

However, after Valentine was hurt, West Bend declined to pay all three players after receiving a report that Championship did not own the Raptors.

Championship owner Jordan Kopac testified that another of his companies, JFK2 LLC, became a general partner of the Raptors for the 2009 season.

He also stated that when he purchased the policy, he owned an outdoor football team called the Wisconsin Wolfpack of the North American Football League.

The policy called for West Bend to pay benefits as required by the workers' compensation law of Wisconsin. West Bend sued the players for a declaratory judgment that it was not required to pay their benefits because their injuries took place in Illinois.

The trial court agreed holding the players were not employees of Championship and not entitled to benefits under Wisconsin law.

The players appealed, and the Elgin-based Second Department Illinois Court of Appeals affirmed the verdict in an opinion written by Judge Robert D. McLaren.

"The plain and unambiguous terms of the contracts indicates that defendants were employed only by the Raptors, and nothing in the contracts indicates that defendants were employed by Championship," he wrote."Kopac testified that, although the contracts identified 'the team' as the Raptors, he considered that a typo and considered the agreements to be 'Championship contracts.'

This evidence would be inadmissible under the provisional admission approach because it is not objective, as Kopac is not a disinterested third party. Thus, we need not consider what this interested third party thought about the contracts after defendants suffered injuries," McLaren added.

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