Posts Tagged ‘sports’

$1.5 M for yelling at player to get in shape

In New Jersey, the state that litigates valedictorian decisions (Jun. 30), Jennifer Besler blamed her high school basketball coach’s request for her to lose ten pounds for an eating disorder that has lasted over eight years. A Mercer County jury found her damages to be $3 million, and held the school district responsible for 49% of them–with possible punitive damages still to be calculated. “The jury also awarded Philip Besler, Jennifer’s father, $100,000 because then school board President Lester Bynum gaveled him into silence as he tried to speak at a January 1997 school board meeting.” The defense lawyer has noted that the Besler family’s complaints about the coach began when Jennifer lost her starting position on the team. The school district will appeal, but meanwhile has already shelled out for a four-month trial. (Linda Stein, “$1.5M coach-suit verdict”, Trenton Times, Mar. 25; Lisa Meyer, “Jurors get Hussong case today”, Trentonian, Mar. 16; Lisa Meyer, “Lawyers argue over jury instructions”, Trentonian, Mar. 2). Maybe the former coach can get a job counseling the plaintiffs who blame McDonald’s for their obesity.

Update: Jury declines to award punitive damages; Mr. Besler reveals that he spent $1 million on case (thus showing who the real bully is). (Mark Perkiss, “Coach vows to fight verdict”, Trenton Times, Mar. 26; Lisa Meyer, “Beslers speak after decision”, Trentonian, Mar. 26).

Update: Judge throws out $1.5 M verdict (Apr. 9).

NFL draft age ruling

Gregg Easterbrook (Feb. 6) takes a dim view of U.S. District Judge Shira Schindlin’s ruling that it’s an antitrust violation for the National Football League to place limits on the age at which players can be drafted. See Andrew Bagnato, “NFL teams may alter way they do business”, Arizona Republic, Feb. 6.

Update: Calgary youth soccer claim

Parent/attorney Michael Kraik has dropped his suit against the Springbank Minor Hockey Association (Dec. 19), but “Bow Valley Hockey Society president Todd Atkinson said the fact the suit was dropped will do little to give officials the necessary peace of mind to continue volunteering. ‘The damage is done … (dropping the suit) is not going to change the fact that an already depleted volunteer base will be affected by this,’ said Atkinson. ‘This is probably the worst thing that could’ve happened to minor hockey in Calgary.'” (Pablo Fernandez, “Lawsuit chills officials”, Calgary Sun, Jan. 11).


More developments in previously covered controversies:

* Where credit is due dept.: lawyers for Patrick Hayashi, whose squabble over ownership of a souvenir Barry Bonds home run baseball grew so costly as to eat up the ball’s auction value, agreed to roll back their fees so that their client would emerge from the case with something of value other than the experience (Gwen Knapp, “Finally, in Bonds ball case, someone shows some class”, San Francisco Chronicle, Dec. 30)(see Jul. 1).

* National talk show host Joe Scarborough, criticized here among other places for naming a company as “Rat of the Week” without disclosing that his partners at Pensacola’s Levin Papantonio were actively suing it (see Sept. 15), says he’s now stopped receiving a stipend from the law firm, though name partner Fred Levin says Scarborough remains associated with the firm and may even do a commercial for it (Amber Bollman, “Scarborough: No pay from law firm”, Pensacola News Journal, Dec. 30; Howard Kurtz, “Bad News Bearers: Up To No Good?” Washington Post, Dec. 29)(low in piece) (via Lori Patel,

* After nearly three weeks of testimony and an hour and a half of deliberations, a jury has rejected a lawsuit against Ford Motor Company over the death of New Jersey state trooper Scott Gonzalez (see Oct. 27, 1999). Gonzalez was killed in a shootout with a mental patient, and lawyers for his widow had alleged that he might have survived had his Ford Crown Victoria been designed so that a crumpled fender did not block his door from opening; they also sued the killer’s parents (who were released from the suit shortly before the recent trial) and Hechler & Koch, the maker of her husband’s police gun, because it briefly jammed after he’d fired seven shots from it; the latter suit resulted in a settlement providing less than $50,000 to Maureen Gonzalez. (Jenna Portnoy, “Jury rules Ford not liable in trooper’s shooting death”, Easton, Pa. Express-Times, Dec. 19)

Canada: nine-year-old’s hockey suit

“Parents may stop helping out on their kid’s teams if a Springbank lawyer successfully sues volunteers within his own son’s league, says the head of minor hockey in Calgary. … Michael Kraik is suing the Springbank Minor Hockey Association because he says his nine-year-old son Alexander was deliberately placed on a weaker team due to favouritism from league officials for their own children.” The suit seeks C$50,000 and names two officials individually. (“Hockey crisis looms”, Calgary Sun, Dec. 19). Update Jan. 11: suit dropped.

Canada: curling accommodation demanded

A Winnipeg man with a bad knee has filed a human rights complaint challenging the refusal of curling authorities to permit him to use a “delivery stick” in competitions that would permit him to throw rocks without bending his knees. The devices have become popular among elderly and disabled curlers, but the Canadian and World curling associations (yes, there turns out to be curling outside Canada) have banned it as giving an unfair advantage, much as golf authorities in the U.S. tried to ban the use of golf carts as a substitute for walking until Casey Martin’s victorious Supreme Court challenge. (“New rule discriminates, says curler”, CBC, Dec. 10)(more on disabled-rights demands in sports competition)

Stallone sued over Rocky movies

I bet you didn’t know that the original “Rocky” movie was inspired by journeyman boxer Chuck Wepner’s 1975 fifteen-round loss to Muhammed Ali in 1975. Which doesn’t bode well for Wepner’s lawsuit: he seems to think he’s entitled to a $15 million cut for that movie and its four sequels for misuse of publicity rights. (A look at Wepner’s web site seems to indicate the ex-con benefits more from publicity from Stallone than Stallone has from publicity from Wepner. I didn’t see any references to Mr. T, however.) One looks in vain for an acknowledgement by the press coverage that the lawsuit has less of a chance than Wepner did against Ali–though readers of Professor Volokh’s weblog know better:

No, it’s not legally actionable for a writer to use your name in honestly describing the inspiration for his work. Even if Stallone is intentionally trying to “capitalize” on this story (not terribly likely, I think, but say it’s so), he’s perfectly entitled to do so, just as biographers or journalists are perfectly to “capitalize” on others’ names and stories when writing their works. Wepner wouldn’t be entitled to get damages from someone who wrote a biography of him (unless the biography was libelous, which isn’t an issue here). He’s likewise not entitled to get damages from someone who was inspired by him in making a movie, and who reveals this inspiration in discussing the movie.

(Dave Anderson, “Bayonne Bleeder Throws a Punch at the Italian Stallion”, New York Times, Nov. 16; Steve Springer, “The Eye of the Lawsuit”, Los Angeles Times, Nov. 13; AP, Nov. 13; Eugene Volokh blog, Nov. 10).