Justia Entertainment & Sports Law Opinion Summaries

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In a dispute over the naming of a thoroughbred racehorse, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's decision, which held that the decision by the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) precluded the plaintiffs' legal action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging First Amendment violations. The plaintiffs, who owned the horse named Malpractice Meuser, brought the action after the CHRB refused their horse's registration due to its name, which they believed violated specific rules. The Ninth Circuit ruled that the district court was wrong to conclude the CHRB's decision precluded the plaintiffs' § 1983 action. The court reasoned that for a state administrative agency decision to have the same preclusive effect as a state court judgment, the administrative proceeding must be conducted with sufficient safeguards and satisfy fairness requirements. In this case, the CHRB lacked the authority under California law to decide constitutional claims, and thus, its decision had no preclusive effect. Furthermore, the court ruled that the plaintiffs' decision not to seek review of the CHRB's decision in state court did not endow that decision with preclusive effect. The court found that requiring the plaintiffs to go to state court before filing a suit under § 1983 would amount to an improper exhaustion prerequisite. The case was remanded for further proceedings. View "JAMGOTCHIAN V. FERRARO" on Justia Law

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In this case, the National Hockey League and associated parties (plaintiffs) sued their insurer, Factory Mutual Insurance Company (defendant), over losses incurred due to the COVID-19 pandemic under a commercial insurance policy. The plaintiffs claimed that their policy covered physical loss or damage to property due to COVID-19 and sought to overturn a lower court order that struck down most of their coverage theories.The Court of Appeal of the State of California, Sixth Appellate District, found that while the plaintiffs had adequately alleged physical loss or damage from the coronavirus, their insurance policy's contamination exclusion unambiguously excluded coverage for losses due to viral contamination. The court concluded that the policy excluded both the physical loss or damage caused by viral contamination and the associated business interruption losses.The plaintiffs had alleged that the virus physically damaged their property by changing the chemical composition of air and altering the molecular structure of physical surfaces. They also claimed that they had to close their hockey arenas, cancel games, limit fan access, and undertake various remedial measures to mitigate the virus's impact. However, under the terms of their insurance policy, the court found that these losses were not covered because they resulted from viral contamination, which was excluded from coverage under their policy. Thus, the court denied the plaintiffs' petition for review. View "San Jose Sharks, LLC v. Super. Ct." on Justia Law

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Thomas was recruited to play on the women’s soccer team at the University of California, Berkeley (UCB), played on the team during her freshman year and, in the spring of that year, was released from the team. She sued UCB, the team’s head coach (McGuire), and the Director of Athletics (Knowlton), alleging that she turned down a scholarship to another school based on McGuire’s recruitment efforts and that McGuire failed to disclose his “abusive” coaching style and the team’s culture of intimidation and fear. After her federal suit was dismissed, Thomas sued in state court, alleging claims against McGuire and Knowlton for violation of the Unruh Act and negligence; against McGuire for breach of fiduciary duty and fraud; and against UCB under Government Code section 815.2.The court of appeal affirmed the dismissal of the suit, reinstating only a claim of sexual harassment (Civil Code section 51.9) against McGuire and UCB. Thomas failed to state a negligence claim against McGuire, Knowlton, or UCB. Thomas cites no authority imposing on a university a duty to protect students from harm of a non-physical nature. Nor did Thomas establish a breach of fiduciary duty. The court also rejected claims of fraud and negligent misrepresentation. View "Thomas v. The Regents of the University of California" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Jefferey Lurner was a member of Marbella Golf and Country Club (Marbella) where he played golf. Defendants American Golf Corporation and Root’N USA Corporation owned and operated Marbella. At some point after plaintiff joined Marbella, he was diagnosed with pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH). Given this disability, plaintiff claimed he had to drive his golf cart to wherever his ball landed on the golf course. But for safety reasons, Marbella had rules governing where golfers could drive their golf carts. Some of those restrictions applied to all members, including golfers with disabilities. Plaintiff filed suit alleging defendants failed to accommodate his disability and denied him full and equal enjoyment of the golf course. After the case proceeded to trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of defendants. The jury found defendants did not “discriminate against or deny [plaintiff] full and equal access to and enjoyment of accommodations or advantages or facilities or services at [Marbella] at any time after May 14, 2016.” The court subsequently denied plaintiff’s motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV) and motion for new trial. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court: "Assuming, without deciding, Marbella’s policies had a discriminatory effect in practice, there was substantial evidence defendants modified their policies for plaintiff. Any error regarding the testimony of defendants’ expert witness also did not result in a miscarriage of justice. We therefore affirm the judgment." View "Lurner v. American Golf Corp." on Justia Law

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The Ohio Valley Conference ("the OVC" -- a collegiate athletic conference) appealed a judgment dismissing its official-capacity and individual-capacity claims against Randall Jones, the Chair of the Board of Trustees of Jacksonville State University ("JSU"), and Don C. Killingsworth, Jr., the President of Jacksonville State University. On February 3, 2021, JSU informed the OVC that it intended to resign its OVC membership effective June 30, 2021. OVC filed this action against JSU, Jones, and Killingsworth, seeking a declaratory judgment and alleging breach of contract -- focusing solely on JSU's failure to pay the conference-resignation fee described in Article 4.5.3 of the OVC Constitution. The complaint also asserted one count against JSU -- conversion -- focusing solely on the OVC's allegation that JSU had failed to pay $15,000 for tickets received from the OVC for the OVC's 2021 conference championship basketball tournament. The complaint also asserted two counts against JSU -- promissory estoppel and unjust enrichment -- that incorporated both the conference-resignation fee and the value of the tickets to the conference championship basketball tournament as elements of damages. The Alabama Supreme Court concluded: the OVC's claims against Jones and Killingsworth in their official capacities seeking payment for the liquidated amount of the conference-resignation fee and for the value of the tickets JSU received for the OVC's 2021 conference championship basketball tournament did not constitute claims against the State, and, therefore, they were not barred by State immunity. Accordingly, the circuit court erred in dismissing the OVC's official-capacity claims against Jones and Killingsworth. However, the Court found the OVC failed to state individual-capacity claims against Jones and Killingsworth for which relief could be granted because Jones and Killingsworth lacked any duty apart from their official positions to make the payments the OVC sought to recover and because the OVC's complaint did not supply the factual allegations necessary to support those individual-capacity claims. View "Ohio Valley Conference v. Jones, et al." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff was a high-level high-school basketball player who wanted to play in the NBA. After graduating high school, Plaintiff committed to the University of Louisville. However, subsequently, Plaintiff's father accepted a bribe in relation to Plaintiff's decision to play for Louisville. As a result, Plaintiff lost his NCAA eligibility. Plaintiff filed RICO claims against the parties who were central to the bribery scheme. The district court granted summary judgment to Defendants, finding that Plaintiff did not demonstrate an injury to his business or property, as required for a private civil RICO claim.The Fourth Circuit affirmed. Congress made the civil RICO cause of action for treble damages available only to plaintiffs “injured in [their] business or property” by a defendant’s RICO violation. Without such an injury, even a plaintiff who can prove he suffered some injury as a result of a RICO violation lacks a cause of action under the statute. The Fourth Circuit rejected Plaintiff's claims that the loss of benefits secured by his scholarship agreement with Louisville; the loss of his NCAA eligibility; and the loss of money spent on attorney’s fees attempting to regain his eligibility constituted a cognizable business or property injury. View "Brian Bowen, II v. Adidas America Inc." on Justia Law

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The Ohio Valley Conference ("the OVC") appealed a judgment dismissing its official-capacity and individual-capacity claims against Randall Jones, the Chair of the Board of Trustees of Jacksonville State University ("JSU"), and Don C. Killingsworth, Jr., the President of Jacksonville State University. The OVC was a men's and women's collegiate athletic conference that began in 1948. The OVC Constitution contained two relevant provisions concerning resignation of membership from the conference. In addition to alleging that JSU had failed to pay the conference-resignation fee described in Article 4.5.3 of the OVC Constitution, the OVC also asserted that JSU owed the conference money for tickets to certain conference championship basketball tournament tickets. JSU, Jones, and Killingsworth filed a joint motion to dismiss the OVC's complaint. With respect to the OVC's claims against JSU, defendants argued that the Alabama State Board of Adjustment ("the BOA") had "exclusive jurisdiction" over those claims. With respect to any claims the OVC asserted against Jones and Killingsworth in their official capacities, defendants argued the claims were barred by State immunity under § 14 of the Alabama Constitution. With respect to any claims the OVC asserted against Jones and Killingsworth in their individual capacities, defendants argued the OVC had failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted, and they maintained that the claims were barred by the doctrine of State-agent immunity. The Alabama Supreme Court concluded the OVC's claims against Jones and Killingsworth in their official capacities seeking payment for the liquidated amount of the conference-resignation fee and for the value of the tickets JSU received for the OVC's 2021 conference championship basketball tournament did not constitute claims against the State, and, therefore, they were not barred by State immunity. Accordingly, the circuit court erred in dismissing the OVC's official-capacity claims against Jones and Killingsworth. However, the Court found the OVC failed to state individual-capacity claims against Jones and Killingsworth for which relief could be granted because Jones and Killingsworth lacked any duty apart from their official positions to make the payments the OVC sought to recover and because the OVC's complaint did not supply the factual allegations necessary to support those individual-capacity claims. View "Ohio Valley Conference v. Jones, et al." on Justia Law

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Wellsfry, playing golf on OCP's course, parked his golf cart, not noticing any trees or tree roots in the area. He left his cart, took a shot, and walked down a “gentle slope” toward his cart. He felt “searing pain” and fell into his golf cart. Wellsfry knew he had stepped on something but did not see what it was and could not say if his foot caught or twisted on anything. Another golfer pointed out a tree root; it is not clear whether she saw Wellsfry step on that root. Wellsfry continued playing golf and later that day reported the incident. Wellsfry filed suit, alleging that he had fallen “by tripping on a root that was concealed in the grass in reasonably close proximity to where a tree had been removed” and “the presence of a root as a hidden obstruction created a condition that was negligently maintained and dangerous with an unreasonable risk of harm."The court of appeal affirmed the summary judgment rejection of the negligence suit. The lawsuit was barred by the primary assumption of risk doctrine; playing outdoor golf includes the inherent risk of injury caused by stepping on a tree root in an area used to access tee boxes. OCP had not increased that inherent risk and had not failed to take reasonable steps to minimize the inherent risk of injury that would not have altered the fundamental nature of the sport. View "Wellsfry v. Ocean Colony Partners" on Justia Law

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The Oakland Waterfront Ballpark District Project proposes the redevelopment of Howard Terminal, a 50-acre site within the Port of Oakland, and five contiguous acres. It includes a 35,000-seat ballpark for the city’s Major League Baseball team, construction of 3,000 residential units, 270,000 square feet of retail space, 1.5 million square feet for other commercial uses, a performance venue, and up to 400 hotel rooms. There will be parking for 8,900 vehicles; nearly 20 acres will be set aside as publicly accessible open space. Howard Terminal borders an estuary. Portions of the site are currently used for various commercial maritime activities, but most of the land is devoted to truck parking and container storage. A rail line serving passenger and freight traffic runs down the northern border of Howard Terminal.Oakland issued a draft environmental impact report (EIR) under the California Environmental Quality Act (Pub. Resources Code 21000) in 2021 and certified the final EIR a year later. A statement of overriding considerations concluded that the project’s benefits outweighed several significant environmental impacts that could not be fully mitigated. Excepting one wind mitigation measure, the trial court rejected challenges. The court of appeal affirmed. The court noted that the soil at the project site is contaminated from long years of industrial use; the ballpark and development will generate substantial new pedestrian and vehicle traffic in the neighborhood; and the site’s existing uses must be relocated but found the EIR adequate. View "East Oakland Stadium Alliance, LLC v. City of Oakland" on Justia Law

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The 2020 Horseracing Safety and Integrity Act created a national framework to regulate thoroughbred horseracing, replacing several state regulatory authorities with a private corporation, the Horseracing Authority, the Act’s primary rule-maker. The Authority was not subordinate to the relevant public agency, the Federal Trade Commission, in critical ways. In 2022, the Fifth Circuit declared the Act unconstitutional because it gave “a private entity the last word” on federal law. Congress amended the Act to give the Federal Trade Commission discretion to “abrogate, add to, and modify” any rules that bind the industry, 15 U.S.C. 3053(e).The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a suit filed by Oklahoma, West Virginia, Louisiana, their racing commissions, and other entities that made the same claims as the Fifth Circuit case. While the challenges are not moot, the Authority is now subordinate to the FTC, which has “pervasive” oversight and control of the Authority’s enforcement activities, just as it does in the rulemaking context. The court rejected a “commandeering” challenge to a provision that requires state authorities to “cooperate and share information” with the Authority or federal agencies for lack of standing and rejected claims that the Act was coercive or punitive. View "State of Oklahoma v. United States" on Justia Law