The Texas Supreme Court ruled Friday that an appeals court erred when it failed to find that Dallas was the proper venue for a football player’s 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 extend over the next three football seasons and expire at the end of February 2018.
Mr. Fortenberry began training 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 re-injured his knee.
Fortenberry̵7;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 properly in Dallas, and the administrative law judge made a finding of fact and a conclusion of law thereon. After an administrative appeals panel affirmed, Fortenberry sought judicial review in Dallas County District Court.
Fortenberry argued 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,” even though he was staying at a hotel. The insurer claimed 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 that venue was properly in Dallas County.
The Texas Supreme Court later declared that “(r)eside” is not defined in the Labor Code, that “brief and intermittent stays in a county may suffice,” and that Mr. Fortenberry’s testimony that he was “living” in a hotel at the time of his injury was sufficient.
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