Philadelphia Eagles fans might be bigger supporters of tort reform now: a doctor has refused to clear star wide receiver Terrell Owens for play in Super Bowl XXXIX after an ankle sprain because of liability fears. (Mark Maske, “Hope Remains for Owens Comeback”, washingtonpost.com, Jan. 26).
Owens might have other reasons to seek tort reform. He’s being sued for $35 million by Formulated Sciences Inc. because he didn’t wear a t-shirt he supposedly agreed to wear in 1999. This might be because the non-FDA-regulated “nutritional supplements” he was supposed to endorse were banned by the NFL in 2001. Of course, perhaps Owens’ business representatives failed to account for such an eventuality in the endorsement agreement, in which case Owens may well be liable for a breach of contract, but alleging $35 million in damages for failing to wear a particular hat or t-shirt is ridiculous. The theory is apparently that there were millions of people clamoring to buy an ointment with Owens’ picture on it. If an athlete’s endorsement carried that kind of weight, athletes would be making much more money in endorsements. (Don Russell, “T.O. facing $35M suit from banned supplement company”, Philadelphia Daily News, Dec. 29). Formulated Sciences, which specializes in a weight-loss snake-oil with as much caffeine as a two-liter bottle of Coca-Cola, has also sued the NFL for supposed antitrust violations. The League has moved to dismiss the complaint. The lawsuit is meritless on its face, and, given the press releases, appears to be an attempt for FS to get free advertising for its products, but the NFL will likely spend at least tens of thousands of dollars defending itself.