Posts Tagged ‘sports’

“Three Former Players Sue MLB Over Pension”

Doug Pappas’s excellent “Business of Baseball Weblog” covers a recent lawsuit against Major League Baseball filed by former players upset that the rules were changed to make it easier to vest for pensions.

They allege that they were discriminated against when the pension rules were amended 22 years ago to reduce the vesting period for pension benefits from five years to 43 days and for medical benefits from five years to one day, but only for players then active. In their world, it’s unlawful discrimination to negotiate better benefits for current employees without making those benefits retroactive for all existing retirees. In our world, it’s not. Indeed, other groups of retired players have sued and lost over this issue.

The lawsuit also complains about a one-time $10,000 payment made to former Negro Leaguers in 1997 who also weren’t eligible for the pension. (Pappas blog, Oct. 17; “Lawsuit alleges discrimination due to race”, AP, Oct. 16; complaint). When a lawyer files a class action, he or she is representing only a few members of the class who have retained that lawyer (called “the named plaintiffs”, since they are named in the caption of the suit), and is requesting the right to represent absent members of the class, who may or may not support the suit, and may or may not elect to opt out even if the court certifies the class. But the AP coverage, as is common in journalistic coverage of class actions, (see, e.g., Oct. 21), inexplicably focuses several paragraphs on prominent absent class members who had nothing to do with the lawsuit.

Disappearing Australians

Lifeguards: “One of Victoria’s most popular surf beaches may be unpatrolled this summer as its lifesaving club struggles to pay the huge public liability insurance costs. The Torquay club will not put lifesavers on the beach this season if the State Government does not pass legislation protecting members and the club from litigation.” (Stephen Moynihan, “Popular beach may have no lifesavers this season”, Melbourne Age, Nov. 2). Pediatric surgeons: “Eighteen orthopedic surgeons and obstetricians have quit public hospitals in Sydney in the past week because of the Government’s medical indemnity charge.” (Ruth Pollard, “Children’s surgeons quit, more will follow”, Sydney Morning Herald, Oct. 2). Rural obstetricians (Lucy Beaumont, “Insurance fear on rural births”, Melbourne Age, May 6). See David Little, “Left untreated, the indemnity system will cause more suffering”, Sydney Morning Herald, Oct. 9; Richard Ackland, “In a row between doctor and lawyer, you know who the politician will call”, Sydney Morning Herald, Oct. 31)

Suing NFL over fan’s DWI

A fan downed 14 beers at a New York Giants game and drove off, causing a crash that left a child paralyzed. Now the family’s lawyers want the league to pay. “I understand they are searching for a deep pocket,” said Rutgers law prof Howard Latin. “But at a certain point, people have to be responsible for their own behavior.” (Peter Pochna, “Family sues NFL for fan’s DWI that left child paralyzed”,, Oct. 10)(reg) (& see “Sports Betting: The National Football League Versus the Trial Lawyers” (commentary), Center for Individual Freedom, Oct. 16). Update Jan. 21, 2005: jury returns $105 million award against beer concessionaire Aramark after dismissal of claims against team and league.

U.K.: defending assumption of risk

There’s been much attention (and deservedly so) to the recent ruling of the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords in Tomlinson v. Congleton Borough Council (see Aug. 11), which vigorously and eloquently defended the principle of assumption of risk as a bulwark of “the liberty of the citizen” which helps prevent the imposition of “a grey and dull safety regime on everyone.” See, for example, Scott Norvell, “‘The Protection of the Foolhardy or Reckless Few’?”,, Oct. 2. Now, in a case that arose on the Isle of Wight, “A judge has stripped a schoolboy of a ?4,250 damages award after his school argued that it would be ‘madness’ to compensate him for breaking his arm after falling off a swing as he played Superman during a sports day at Chillerton country primary school near Newport. … [O]verturning the ruling that the school was negligent, Mr Justice Gross said at London’s high court that if ‘word got out’ the boy had won his case ‘the probability is sports days and other pleasurable sporting events will simply not take place … Such events could easily become uninsurable, or at prohibitive cost.'” (Clare Dyer, The Guardian, Sept. 25; Chris Boffey, “Judge’s ruling ‘saves school sports days'”, Daily Telegraph, Sept. 25). See also articles by barrister Jon Holbrook in Spiked Online: “‘Duties of care’ to the careless and criminal” (Tony Martin case, etc.), Jul. 29; “The trouble with Making Amends” (medical malpractice law), Aug. 22; “Blind spot” (road accident caused by pedestrian), Sept. 23.

“Injured student sues goal post maker”

Had to happen dept.: “A man whose legs were paralyzed when fellow Ball State students toppled a goal post after a 2001 football upset of Toledo is suing the goal post maker. Andrew Bourne, 23, of Liberty, Ind., and his parents are suing Marty Gilman Inc. of Gilman, Conn., claiming the aluminum posts were ‘designed and constructed in a manner which allowed them to suddenly snap and collapse.'” (Gary Mihoces, USA Today, Sept. 30). Update Jul. 24, 2005: court rejects Bourne’s case and his lawyer vows appeal.

Update: not quite after our own heart

Last year it was reported (Sept. 27-29, 2002) that Kansas City Royals coach Tom Gamboa, who had been set upon and beaten by a father-son pair of spectators at Chicago’s Comiskey Park, had rebuffed lawyers who had contacted him suggesting he sue the White Sox, and said he didn’t plan legal action: “The fault is with the two people who did it,” he said. “I’m not one who looks to place blame. It’s nobody’s fault but the two idiots who did it.” Now — whoops! — AP is reporting that Gamboa has filed a suit not only against the father who attacked him but also two other defendants: Illinois SportService, a concessionaire that allegedly served the irate fan too much alcohol, and SDI Security Inc., which provides security at the ballpark. Gamboa’s suit seeks in excess of $200,000 in damages. (“Coach sues attacker, others for on-field attack “, AP/San Francisco Chronicle, Sept. 19)

Say It Ain’t So, Ko

A Colorado DA has gone ahead and charged LA Laker star Kobe Bryant with third-degree sexual assault. (“Kobe Bryant Charged With Sexual Assault,” AP, Jul. 18). He’s already admitted to committing adultery (which would still keep him near the top of the “NBA’s Most Noble Stars” list). But given the severity of this charge — it’s borderline rape, if not rape itself — there’s not going to be a wrist-slap plea like in the Chris Webber perjury case. (“Webber’s Guilty Plea Ends Michigan Probe,” AP, Jul. 15).

The statements made today by the DA in Kobe’s case are troubling, particularly his claim that “[these charges] did not come easily.” (ESPN, Jul. 18). My friend Ananda Gupta pointed out that a cynic would believe the DA would want to press charges — after all, Marcia Clark is a household name even almost a decade post-OJ. On the other side, if the DA has a case, where’s the difficulty? (If you want another OJ reference: “If there was a fight, you must indict.”)

Yes, the DA has prosecutorial discretion as to what cases to bring, but if, in his words, he believes he “can prove this case beyond a reasonable doubt,” the decision should be a mechanical one. There are few exceptions to this (especially in sexual assault cases), and the popularity of the would-be defendant and related fall-out isn’t on the list of loopholes. Or at least it shouldn’t be.

Rose Gets Nullified

The mock Pete Rose trial ESPN just had on TV had interesting results. 11 jurors believed Rose bet on baseball, which carries with it an automatic banishment. But of those 11, seven voted to allow Rose onto the Hall of Fame ballot.

I, for one, think Rose’s permanent expulsion should be just that — permanent. But that’s a post for a different website. What’s interesting about the faux ESPN trial is that Alan Dershowitz, the pseudo-prosecutor, asked judge Catherine Crier to charge the jury with two questions: first, did Rose gamble, and if so, shoud he be given the ole’ heave-ho? Johnnie Cochran, the defense attorney (why is this starting to sound like the lead up to a bad punchline?), objected, saying Dershowitz was changing the rules. But Dershowitz’s strategy was clear — he wanted the jury to have to reconcile their factual finding of guilt with their desire to acquit. Crier ruled in favor of Cochran.

If this were a real criminal trial, the charge wouldn’t be anything like the one here. The jury would be asked to determine simply if Rose gambled, and if they did beyond a reasonable doubt, they’d be instructed to find Rose guilty. The jury would have the power to acquit Rose; they’d simply not be told about it.

While I, and many (although admitedly a small minority) would agree with the outcome where nullification is not an option, I hope it’s clear to the thousands of people who watched this Rose trial that taking that power from the jury would make the moot court truly moot. If you ever need an example on why nullification is a proper and arguably necessary instruction, just look to this case. If the only question is “Did Pete Rose gamble on baseball,” there’s not much to debate. (Unless you’re Bill James.) But there’s certainly a debate going on, as there should be, and if it comes out in favor of the accused, let the jury set him free.

I Quit! Now Pay Me!

Eric Gregg’s lawsuit has been delayed yet again. Gregg, a former National League umpire, was one of 22 who (a) resigned in 1999 and (b) were shocked (shocked!) that the league actually made them stay resigned. Now he wants his severance package as if he were fired. (AP, Jul. 14; link via How Appealing).

Gregg’s case is a hysterical blend of personal responsibility — Gregg resigned out of principle, and wasn’t given his job back — and dumb luck, given his lackluster record as an ump. The story: Gregg claims that he wasn’t fired for cause: “There is no doubt that they are discriminating against me because of my weight.” (“Interview with the Umpire,” Philadephia City Paper, Aug./Sept. 1999). Ignore the fact that he resigned as part of a ploy to get MLB to choose between paying severance pay (why they’d have to pay out in cases of resignation is beyond me). But the reality is that a 1998 survey of players, coaches, and managers (run by the Players’ Association) rated Gregg as the second-to-worst ump in the NL; as Doug Pappas pointed out, “[n]o one needs statistics to conclude that the likes of Ken Kaiser and Eric Gregg don’t belong in the majors. (Pappas’ site, 1999). He was also rated one of baseball’s five worst umpires in a 1998 Baseball Weekly survery.

While his weight was made to be an issue — he was fined $5,000 in 1999 for being too fat — there could be a reason for that. It may have affected his on-field abilities. Never mind that he’d have to run into position to make a call. In 1978, Gregg bumped into a catcher trying to make a throw and called interference on himself. Almost two decades later, he was granted a leave of absence to enter a weight-loss program. (Thanks to Baseball Library for the background info.)