NFL Offseason: National Football Litigation

nfl-logoIt seems that there is no NFL offseason anymore.  With the NFL Draft, rookie camps, minicamps, OTAs, trade demands and other events, the NFL is always in the news.  Thanks to sites such as the National Football Post and Pro Football Talk, new NFL coverage and analysis is constantly available.

In recent weeks, the NFL has been in the news in connection with two lawsuits. 

American Needle v. NFL

Gabe Feldman of the Sports Law Blog has posted an excellent analysis of this antitrust case, in which the NFL seeks to be classified as a “single entity” (rather than 32 individual franchises) to avoid antitrust suits:

An expansion of the Seventh Circuit’s holding would be a huge win for professional sports leagues. Depending on the scope of the Supreme Court’s decision, leagues could be free to make decisions regarding the location and ownership of teams, contraction of franchises, television restrictions, intellectual property licensing, etc., without fear of attack under Section 1 of the Sherman Act. Taken to its most unlikely extreme, the Supreme Court could extend the single entity protection to cover all decisions made by a league, including salary caps, player drafts, free agency rules, and other player restraints.

Jurevicius v. Cleveland Browns

joe-jurevicius-and-braylon(1)As reported by the AP, former Browns receiver Joe Jurevicius has sued the team and the Cleveland Clinic in connection with a staph infection in his knee.  Jurevicius was unable to play last year and his Compliant indicates that his career may be over.

This story is interesting in light of the ongoing problems that the Browns have experienced with staph infections, including the very public situation with Kellen Winslow Jr. last year.  This case presents a great example of a sports law case that is really a negligence/malpractice case involving a sports team and athlete. 

Although the body of law is the same for Jurevicius as its is for a construction worker suing a former employee and medical clinic, the infusion of sports likley makes the handling of the case very different.  For example, the Browns are defending the lawsuit but also managing public relations, and the team’s image with respect to its current players and potential free agents.  Jurevicius, a player on the back end of his career, has to prosecute his claim but also consider whether suing an NFL team will limit his chances to play for another team should his knee recover.  If the case goes to a jury trial, the Browns may have a difficult time finding impartial jurors without well-formed opinions about this case.

Also, one note about the reporting of lawsuits: this article states that “[t]he lawsuit asked for damages totaling more than $25,000, plus unspecified punitive damages, attorney and expert fees and related costs.”  Typically, a complaint does not set forth the damages sought by the plaintiff with any degree of accuracy.  The Complaint either sets forth a claim that the damages exceed a certain amount ($15,000 in Connecticut) to meet a statutory requirement to bring a claim in that particular court; or the plaintiff essentially sets forth his demand, a number that will be reduced or verified during the discovery process or settlement negotiations.

In the Jurevicius case, it appears that the $25,000 figure was included in the Complaint to meet a prescribed requirement.  Jurevicius likely seeks a much greater figure from the Browns and the Cleveland Clinic.

Comments

  1. Flutie Magic says:

    So if American Needle v. NFL were to pass would that mean the Jurevicius lawsuit would be against the NFL and not the Browns?

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