Attorneys appointed to national sports unions workers’ compensation panels

James Burn and Douglas Williams join the workers’ compensation panels of the NFLPA and PHPA.

Our firm is pleased to announce two tremendous appointments to professional sports union legal boards. Congratulations to James Burn and Douglas Williams who were named to the workers compensation panels of the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) and the Professional Hockey Players Association (PHPA), respectively. 

“Both Doug and Jim have been relentless advocates for workers’ rights and have spent a significant amount of time working on these types of cases. This recognition highlights the caliber of work they have been doing and will continue to do,” said partner Thomas Baumann. 

Burn and Williams’ appointments come at a time when professional sports organizations are seeing significant challenges due to COVID-19 and may require additional representation. This designation exemplifies their ongoing dedication to the sports industry and its players, and we are proud of their accomplishments.

Congratulations, Jim and Doug! 

Tom Baumann Named One of the Top 50 Lawyers in Pittsburgh by Super Lawyers

Tom Baumann was once again recognized as one of the top 50 lawyers in Pittsburgh by Super Lawyers. This is the 16th consecutive year Baumann has been recognized as a Super Lawyer. Specifically, he is listed as a Top Rated Workers’ Compensation Attorney in Pittsburgh by Super Lawyers.

Super Lawyers is a rating service of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high-degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. Only five percent of lawyers receive this designation and are chosen based off Super Lawyer’s patented multiphase selection process, nominations received, independent research and peer evaluations. 

The Abes Baumann team congratulates Tom for achieving Super Lawyers’ status once again.

Football Players –Seasonal Employees?

Recently, Abes Baumann participated in an en banc argument before the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania revisiting the precedent that professional football players are “seasonal employees”under the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act. In the case of Pittsburgh Steelers Sports, Inc. v. Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board (Trucks), Tom Baumann argued that Mr. Trucks signed a yearly contract with the Steelers and as a year-round employee was required to perform year-round obligations for the team. Therefore, Mr. Trucks workers’ compensation benefits should be based upon the contract he signed.

Below, theWorkers’ Compensation Judge and Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board ruled in Mr. Trucks favor, finding his workers’ compensation benefits should be based upon the contract he signed with the Steelers. The Steelers appealed arguing that Trucks was a “seasonal employee.” The Commonwealth Court seemed skeptical of the Steelers’ claim that the contract was seasonal and questioned both sides on what constituted an NFL season. It appears that the Commonwealth Court will now revisit prior cases finding that football players are “seasonal employees”

See, “NFL Players Aren’t ‘Seasonal Employee’ Pa. Court Told” in www.law360.com for a summary of the Commonwealth Court argument.

Blue Water Vets Courtroom Victory!

On January 29, 2019, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit decided the case of Procopio v. Wilkie. This case involved the claim of Alfred Procopio a veteran of the U.S. Navy who served in waters off Vietnam and sought service-connected compensation for prostate cancer and diabetes, two conditions that the VA has found are caused by exposure to Agent Orange. Mr. Procopio’s claim was denied by the VA as he did not set foot on land in Vietnam. He was considered a Blue Water vet and, by VA definition, ineligible for benefits for diseases caused by Agent Orange.

The Court held that the law Congress passed in 1991, allowing compensation for vets exposed to Agent Orange, included vets who served in the territorial waters of the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam). The Court found that the term Congress used in the law, “Republic of Vietnam,” included the country’s territorial waters (a zone extending for 12 miles off its shore lines.)

This is a great victory for these veterans. For years they have been denied benefits that were available to vets who set foot on land in Vietnam, even though they were exposed to Agent Orange in the water and air during their time on board ships off the coast of South Vietnam.

The VA has not yet decided if it will ask the Supreme Court to review this decision. Please continue to check our website for updates.

If you have any questions about how this decision may affect you, please call the veteran’s practice attorneys at Abes Baumann, P.C. for a free consultation.

Do the Right Thing–Report All Injuries

By: James R. Burn, Jr.

Under the Pennsylvania Worker’s Compensation Act, an employer has 10 days to notify their insurance carrier of a work-related injury from the date the injury was reported by the injured worker.

If you are injured at work no matter how minor, it is very important that you immediately notify your supervisor and insist that an accident report be completed. Whether you notice a small pain in your back, incur a scrape, or feel some pain in your arm or shoulder after lifting, this first step is critical. You may think that it’s nothing serious and hesitate to “aggravate” your employer; however, the most important thing is your health, not an employer whose obligation is to comply with the law and report work injuries.

That scrape, bump, or bruise could be the first sign of something far worse. Infections from scrapes can occur weeks after the event. Bumps or bruises can be first sign of a more serious injury that develops over time. A low back ache can become a herniated disc with conditions manifesting much later or becoming much worse as you continue to work.

Not reporting an accident in a timely fashion and not insisting that an accident report be filed can sometimes make it difficult and unfortunately, in some cases, impossible to recover in a workers’ compensation benefits. Employers will argue that they had no knowledge of the event and defense attorneys will point out the fact that the injury was not reported until weeks or months later calling into question the credibility and the honesty of the individual who was simply trying to be nice or “do the right thing.”

You can do the right thing by filing the accident report immediately and insist on a copy. Your health may depend on it.

The Personal Comfort Doctrine

By: Sandra Weigel Kokal

The Workers’ Compensation Act states that an injury must occur in the course of employment and be causally related to the job for the injured worker to receive benefits. An injured worker must show they were engaged in the furtherance of the employer’s business when injured. In other words, the worker must be on the job when the injury occurred.

However, an injury can be considered on the job, where the injury occurred during an innocent departure from work within regular working hours. This is what is known as the personal comfort doctrine. The Court has defined this doctrine as follows:

Course of employment embraces intervals of leisure within regular working hours and momentary departures from work do not remove an employee from the course of employment. Breaks which allow an employee to administer to his/her personal comfort better enable the employee to perform the job and are considered to be in the furtherance of employer’s business.

If an employee does not stray from the course of employment for a momentary departure to attend to some “personal comfort” such as using the restroom, etc., the injury is covered.

A recent Pennsylvania case upheld this doctrine where an employee was injured while meeting her mother in another area at work to obtain feminine hygiene products she had forgotten at home. The Court held this was a temporary departure from work to attend to her personal needs so she could continue her shift at work. Workers’ compensation benefits were granted in this case. This is just one example of the personal comfort doctrine; there are many others. If you were injured while attending to a personal comfort you may be entitled to benefits, it is always important to speak with an attorney to discuss the specific facts of your case.


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