Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Pro-Football, Inc. v. Tupa (Ct. of Special Appeals)

Filed: February 28, 2011
Opinion by Judge Robert A. Zarnoch.

Held: Maryland courts will not enforce a forum selection clause that avoids application of Maryland’s workers’ compensation law.

Facts: Thomas Tupa, a former punter for the Washington Redskins, injured his lower back while warming up for a preseason game. Tupa filed a claim with the Maryland Workers’ Compensation Commission. After a hearing, the commissioner found that Maryland had jurisdiction over Tupa’s claim despite a forum selection clause to the contrary. The Maryland Circuit Court found, on appeal, that Maryland had jurisdiction as a matter of law. The issue was appealed to the Court of Special Appeals.

Analysis: The Court of Special Appeals affirmed the Circuit Court’s decision. Maryland’s Worker’s Compensation Act (the “Act”) provides that rights of employees under the Act cannot be waived. The court found that Maryland has a strong public policy in compensating employees for their injuries. Because the effect of the forum selection clause would be to avoid application of the Act, the court held that the forum selection clause contravened public policy.

The full opinion is available in pdf.

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