United’s attorneys argued the team was protected by the Workers’ Compensation Act (WCA), which provides wages and medical benefits for employees injured on the job. In exchange, the employee relinquishes the right to sue.
However, in a 14-page ruling issued Thursday, judge Natalia M. Combs Greene concluded United failed to provide workers’ compensation insurance coverage.
“The liability of D.C. Soccer is clearly outside the coverage of the WCA,” she wrote. “D.C. Soccer failed to secure workmen’s compensation insurance coverage for Namoff and the WCA grants an employee the right to bring a case at law against an employer who fails to secure such coverage.”
Businesses in Washington are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance coverage. However, exemptions are granted. It is unclear why United did not have the coverage.
The judge’s decision also addressed employment in MLS. Although players are contracted by the league, there is an issue of “special employment” with individual teams.
Namoff, 34, filed suit last year, claiming United was “negligent in its management, care and treatment” of a head injury suffered on Sept. 9, 2009, at RFK Stadium. He played three days later, but concussion symptoms sidelined him for the remainder of the season, his ninth with United. He never played again.
Namoff said he has suffered brain damage and cognitive, memory and sensory loss. He also claims permanent headaches and fatigue, sleep problems and hypersensitivity to motion.
Others named in the suit were Tom Soehn, the head coach at the time; United athletic trainer Brian Goodstein; and former team physician Christopher Annunziata.
A status hearing is scheduled for Nov. 8.
UPDATE: The Business of Soccer website takes a closer look at the judge’s ruling.
Additional information about Namoff’s injuries and case is available here.
To read the judge’s ruling, the case number is 2012CA 007050 B in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia civil branch.