Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Eugenie Bouchard Files a Civil Suit against the USTA and BJKNTC

by Savannah

It was a quiet night in Tennisland. With most tournaments still in Asia and members of #TennisTwitter bleary eyed from late nights or watching replays at a more decent hour for those of us in the West there wasn't much going on. Until this Tweet showed up on Twitter:

USDC EDNY Filings ‏@usdcedny 44m44 minutes ago
Bouchard v. USTA, Inc. et al

via redacted @Hurleytennis

Don't bother to click on the link it's restricted. Thankfully the same person posted the following excerpt:

via @Hurleytennis

There are several things that come to mind about this lawsuit, one of which is personally I only know what is posted above.

So far all we know is what Eugenie Bouchard and her camp have said in their filing. As I type this the USTA has not responded to press inquiries.

The first thing I asked myself is why something like this wasn't settled out of court. I'm guessing the USTA knew this suit was coming - most tennis fans, knowing the litigious nature of the Bouchard family, expected nothing less.
The excerpt above gives no financial details but rumors range from a modest six figure amount to seven figure amounts. How will a lawsuit of this nature affect the USTA which is in the iddle of upgrading the BJK National Tennis Center. Will the roof be completed if the settlement does end up in the seven figure and above range? Will construction of the new Grandstand Court be put on hold leaving the present arrangement in place?

And what about Bouchard's career? Usually when a lawsuit is filed against someone or something the Plaintiff is not allowed to come near the facility or individual being sued. Will other tournaments want someone who would take things seriously enoiugh to put them at financial peril playing at their event? And what will happen at next years US Open? Will she get a WC if needed? With her benefactor gone who will there be to plead her case with tournament directors and tennis federations?

Why ask these questions? Part of the suit blames the accident for Ms Bouchard's precipitous fall in the rankings, something that was already happening before the accident occurred. Does she expect to be compensated for lost wages? How can you know what she would have won if the accident hadn't happened? Since it's a civil suit it's doubtful that jurors would have much of an idea how tennis works and that Bouchard could potentially receive compensation way beyond what her play would have afforded her. Has she been unable to fulfill endorsement committments? From what we've seen of the suit that isn't mentioned. The USTA and the BJK NTC are the entities being sued. Surely she doesn't expect her ranking to be restored to a place higher than it was when the accident occurred.

I wonder how Stacey Allaster felt about this? Now that she's no longer involved with tennis she's under no obligation to say anything. Maybe she'll be called as a witness if and when the matter goes to trial. Maybe Stacey did jump after all.

I'll end with this story by Ben Rothenberg

“In line with our policy, the U.S.T.A. will not be commenting on ongoing litigation,” said Chris Widmaier, managing director of corporate communications for the U.S.T.A.

Bouchard is still troubled by the injury. She had to withdraw from a tournament two weeks ago in Wuhan, China, and retired midway through her first-round match last week in Beijing, citing dizziness. She has also withdrawn from events in Hong Kong and Tokyo.

The lawsuit notes that Bouchard’s ranking, which peaked at No. 5 last year, continues to drop. She is now No. 39 in the world, but was No. 25 at the time of the accident.

Bouchard is asking for a jury trial and is seeking damages of more than $150,000. “For sure,” said her lawyer, Benedict Morelli, “we could be talking about millions and millions.”


Unknown said...

Well you have been against Eugenie Bouchard for her "white blondeness" from the beginning, and in this case, you're no different. You seem to be fixated on the "ranking drop" detail of the suit but in reality that's just one minor point. The larger issue is that Bouchard has been unable to do her job since the accident occurred and will continue to be sidelined for an indefinite period of time. That is real loss of income, earning potential, and an overall detrimental effect on her career which is completely legitimate grounds for a lawsuit.

This is all because of the USTA's negligence and you also omit all the detailed circumstances of the incident that occurred which clearly puts them at fault (and the lawsuit will only prove that). It is not an "accident" if it could have been easily prevented with normal precautions taken and guidelines of safety followed. And again, you're focused on the wrong things, saying she is "biting the hand that feeds her" with this lawsuit. When her career has already been derailed by this incident and it will possibly continue to be in the long term, "biting the hand that feeds her" is a very minor consideration if she can't play tennis everywhere, not just the US Open.

Please reconsider your inherent bias against Bouchard and open your eyes to the real issues of this case. Thank you.

Savannah said...

Well "Unknown" thank you for saying my unease about this lawsuit has to do with my dislike of the hype surrounding Bouchard, hype that proved to be totally unwarranted looking at her play since she raced to the upper echelon of the game in 2014. It's not a secret that the WTA under Allaster promoted players that look like Bouchard more than it did others who did not. Who knew Maria Kirilenko was a beautiful brunette?

No my unease comes about because of reports by people who were there that night. When the first reports surfaced that she'd suffered a fall many asked "where and when?" They said she slipped in a work out room going to take her shower and it was pointed out that during her presser that evening she appeared to have just stepped out of the shower. It was after that that the story changed to what it is now, that she entered a dakened room and slipped on the wet floor. That she suffered a fall I don't dispute. It's the circumstances of that fall that bother me.

Don't forget that that "sick walk" she took coming to the NTC looking all wobbly and what have you was not necessary - she could've withdrawn from her hotel room. The same with going to Wuhan to try and play and having to retire due to dizzyness. None of this was necessary unless you are setting the groundwork for a lawsuit which, given her family history, was a foregone conclusion.

The USTA has a cadre of lawyers and I'm pretty sure a settlement could have been reached out of court if the facts of the case as we know them are provable. I'd be willing to bet a settlement was offered. I'd be willing to bet she and her family turned the USTA down wanting the "millions and millions" her lawyer is going on about.

Maybe this is her way to retire from tennis with a payday she wouldn't otherwise get. I can't see any other viable end game for her. Will she cause the building program at the NTC to be halted so that she can get the money she wants? More in the know people than me have said that is a distinct possibility.

I also read that once you file a suit like this you can't appear at or go near the person or entity you are suing. Will the USTA make good on this? Will she have to restrict her play to overseas venues until the matter is settled? Could she be blacklisted by tournaments world wide?

You seem to think that because Bouchard says the tournament was negligent that that is indeed the case. I am not a big fan of the USTA which you would know if you read this blog but I'm also not a fan of people filing lawsuits that will affect many innocent people because they want to make a money grab. Don't forget the workers who cleaned up and shut down the facility are also in trouble because of this. Most of the people who work the US Open work there year after year and rely on the event for a large part of their income. These people's lives and reputations are also at stake.

The USTA has issued it's standard "we don't comment on pending litigation" response so unless Bouchard's lawyers make more allegations there's not much more anyone can say at the moment. I think it's best for all tennis fans to look beyond fandom right now. There's a lot at stake for many people, not just Eugenie Bouchard.

Unknown said...

Wow, where to begin? Let me go one-by-one.

I challenge your claim that the story changed. Who is "they" and where are those "first reports?" No, rampant Twitter speculation is not credible. What we do know is that she finished her doubled match at about 10 p.m., requested an ice bath to be made, cooled down, showered, did a press conference (where photos do show her hair is wet as you mentioned), then returned to the locker room to go to the ice bath "well after 11 p.m." That's when she slipped and fell in a dark physio's room which is between the locker room and ice baths. All of this was reported by Stephanie Myles who is the most credible source on this incident. Now we know she didn't slip on water but a cleaning agent was applied to the floor to be left overnight (NY Times).

Tt is absolutely absurd to believe that her "sick walk" was for show. She went on-site so that her condition could be assessed and evaluated valuated by medical staff. She went there with the hope that she could play her round of 16 match but it was not to be, as the medical staff advised her to withdraw from all competitions (USTA statement). It is ridiculous to believe she did that for show. How much more biased can you be?

Next, you have absolutely no clue about the USTA's liability here and how they will be affected. Please feel free to mention the "more in-the-know people" who said the building of the roof can be halted because of this. The USTA have their own commercial general liability insurance policies. These policies promise to cover them against any expenses (defense costs + settlement costs) related to suits alleging negligence. So the USTA will be out precious few nickels even if they settle or lose in court. However, it's not entirely up to the USTA - their insurer has the final say on whether to accept a settlement, and while they probably wouldn't accept one without the approval of their insured (i.e., the USTA), the USTA certainly could not force one on the insurer's dime without the insurer agreeing to the terms. But the only people this is going to really cost at the USTA are the janitorial staff and supervisors.

And finally, you say this will affect innocent staff at the US National Center. Once again, you have no clue about this. You're missing the concept of "vicarious liability", or "respondeat superior", whereby an employer or organization on whose behalf you are acting is ultimately held liable for actions you take while in their employ or at their direction. This is the case in pretty much any Common Law country. The USTA / NTC are almost certainly legally liable for the actions of their janitorial staff, whether they be contractors or employees.

Claimants in liability cases have to initiate lawsuits to seek compensation. This is the first and normal step in the due process. Similar suits, on much smaller scales, are filed everyday in this country, most of them regarding property damages, product liability and various kinds of injuries. One of the reasons a lawsuit is even necessary is that insurance companies will never voluntarily pay for damages. If and when a judgment is rendered against the USTA, the insurers will be paying for the damages, not the USTA. Thus, the USTA is not allowed to comment because the comments could tie the lawyers' hands. In order to get her medical bills paid, she MUST SUE if the insurer isn't going to pay. It has nothing to do with "money-grabbing." It is just legal procedure. We have no idea what negotiations have taken place so to make uninformed comments about intent is not wise.

If you've made it this far, thanks for reading and I hope this helps your understanding. Please be better informed about the facts and the law before making absurd statements that have more to do with your personal dislike than the actual legal circumstances. Thank you.

Savannah said...

I think we've read the same commentary by fans familiar with the legal process in personal injury matters.