Dallas venue proper for football player’s claim of training camp injury
The Texas Supreme Court on Friday ruled that an appellate court erred in not finding that Dallas was the appropriate venue for a football player’s workers compensation claim based on an out-of-state injury.
Alcus Reshod Fortenberry’s player contract with the Dallas Cowboys began on May 14, 2015, the day it was executed. The parties agreed that the term would span the three following football seasons and terminate at the end of February 2018.
Mr. Fortenberry began practicing with the Cowboys in Dallas County, where he sprained his knee in June 2015. Later in July 2015, he traveled with the Cowboys to California for a training camp, where he injured his knee again.
Mr. Fortenberry’s workers compensation claim was denied. He then requested a contested case hearing, which took place at the Dallas Field Office of the Texas Workers’ Compensation Division.
The parties stipulated that venue was proper in Dallas, and the administrative law judge made a finding of fact and a conclusion of law to that effect. After an administrative appeals panel affirmed, Mr. Fortenberry sought judicial review in Dallas County District Court.
Mr. Fortenberry alleged that venue was mandatory in Dallas County under state law because he “was a resident of Dallas County, Texas, at the time of his injury,” despite that he was living at a hotel. The insurer argued that Mr. Fortenberry was not a resident of Dallas County or any county in Texas at the time of his injury, so that law did not apply.
The court denied the insurer’s motion to transfer venue. A state appeals court reversed, finding that Mr. Fortenberry failed to show venue was proper in Dallas County.
The Texas Supreme Court later explained that “(r)eside” is not defined in the Labor Code, that “short and intermittent stays in a county may suffice” and that Mr. Fortenberry’s testimony that he “lived” at a hotel at the time of his injury was sufficient.
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