Attorney Carla Varriale: Court in Bat Case Refused to Extend the Duty of Care

Sports Law Attorney and Columbia University Professor, Carla Varriale, has written a fantastic article discussing the famous broken bat case entitled: “Court in Bat Case Refused to Extend the Duty of Care?”  Here is an excerpt, but for the entire article please go to the  link provided below.

A lawsuit filed by James G. Falzon and dismissed this week took aim at the alleged increased hazards presented to spectators by maple bats (versus traditional ash bats) and the team’s and league’s alleged notice of the alleged enhanced danger. Falzon v. Major League Baseball Enterprises, Sterling Mets L.P., Ramon Castro and Louis Castillo made arguments typical in cases resulting from spectators struck by projectiles, but it also relied, in part, on purported MLB-commissioned studies of the dangers presented by maple bats. Falzon also argued that the players Ramon Castro and Luis Castillo were not careful enough in inspecting and maintaining the offending bat.

New York is a “limited duty of care” state. The limited duty of care is a unique legal duty that protects owners and operators of baseball stadiums from liability for spectator injuries caused by errant baseballs, bats and even promotional items that may enter the stands during a baseball game. The limited duty of care is satisfied when an owner or operator establishes that the requisite protected area was provided behind home plate (as it was in the Falzon case, although Falzon and his family conceded that they were not sitting in the protected area and that they did they request seats in that area). Moreover, announcements and the language on the back of the ticket warn spectators about the possibility of bats and bat fragments (maple or otherwise) entering the stands.

It Only Makes Sense- God’s Gift Will Play at St. John’s

God’s Gift Achiuwa, a 6-foot-8 forward has signed a National Letter of Intent to play basketball at St. John’s University.  The two-time junior-college All-American averaged 22.3 points, 11.7 rebounds and 2.2 blocks as a sophomore.

“I am excited to come to St. John’s and New York City. I really like the coaching staff and the way St. John’s plays. They are a running team and that’s what I like, fast paced basketball,” Achiuwa said. “I also like the winning tradition of the new coaching staff. They came into the St. John’s program and turned things around in less than a year. I think that’s a good indication that the program is on its way back.”

God’s Gift opted for the Red Storm because of Head Coach Stan Lavin and the fact that he has made St. John’s a powerful program again, while also being impressed with assistants Mike Dunlap and Rico Hines since they have previous coaching experience the NBA.

God’s Gift will have two years of eligibility with the Red Storm.  Go Johnnies!!

Tiki Barber Wants to Return to the NFL – Did Anyone Tell Him There May Not Be Football Next Season?

One of the key elements of being a great running back in the National Football League is an excellent sense of timing.  Knowing when to cut, juke or change direction as to avoid defenders.

Former New York Football Giant running back Tiki Barber’s timing is definitely askew.  He surprisingly retired from the NFL four years ago as the Giants’ career rushing leader with 10,449 yards when he still had the skills and talents to play, when he still had great football instincts and was in great football shape, and most significantly, when he still had two years left on his contract that would have paid him millions.  After leaving the team to pursue a job in media, the Giants win the Super Bowl the very next year over the New England Patriots.  Tiki’s chances of entering the Hall of Fame at this time go from slim to none.

He then goes to work for NBC as a “Today” show correspondent at a significantly reduced pay rate.  While there, he unceremoniously leaves his beautiful wife of 11 years for a 23-year-old NBC intern.

Bad timing?  Yes because his wife is 8-months-pregnant with twins.

Unsurprisingly, NBC not being happy with the fact that Tiki is having a relationship with an intern (such is usually frowned upon since it may lead to litigation) and since Tiki’s actions embarrassed the Network, they immediately terminated his “Today” show contract.

Since being fired by NBC, Tikii has continued with his “media” career by working with Yahoo Sports but has not endeared himself to the fans or the Giant franchise.  While at Yahoo, he has publicly criticized head coach Tom Coughlin, was booed by fans when the Giants unveiled their ring of honor last season, and stated that former teammate and Giant quarterback Eli Manning lacks the necessary leadership skills to be a winner.  He made this statement even though Eli has a Super Bowl ring but he does not.

Now, as the New York Post reported, being broke and unable pay his divorce settlement with his ex-wife, Tiki has decided to give the NFL another go around and has asked the Giants to take him off the reserve-retirement list.

Bad timing?  Yes, because the NFL is in the middle of the biggest labor dispute since 1987.  The NFL and the NFL Players’ Association failed to agree to terms on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, the owners locked the players’ out, the players have sued alleging antitrust violations, the District Court has ruled, the District Court’s ruling has been appealed to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeal and all of this means that there may not be a season come September.

Tiki – great timing.  Returning to the NFL since you are broke and unable to provide for your children at a time when there may be no league to go back to.  Is this all just a “PR” stunt to revive your “media” career and become relevant again?  Or is it just bad timing as usual?

NFL Players Back to Work – At Least for Now.

The National Football League announced that it would resume day-to-day football operations. Players can return to team facilities, meet with coaches and receive treatment if  needed.

The league is also formalizing a plan for free agent signings, trades and other personnel moves, and will allow teams to swap picks, not players, during the NFL draft.

In addition, mandatory minicamps and voluntary offseason practices can begin, and team-supervised workouts will count towards off-season workout bonuses in player contracts. Players can also work out on their own at team facilities.  The league is also making arrangement for substance abuse and steroid programs.

“Judge [Susan Richard] Nelson said it was up to us to determine how to proceed, and we think in light of the fact that the first round of the draft is tonight, clubs are fully focused on that,” NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said. “The best way to proceed is for the veterans to start working out at facilities [Friday], and then we’ll set up the process of starting the league year, which would include player trades and player signings.”

However, the two sided will continue their fight in court with the NFL and owners moving forward with their appeal in the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis wherein they have moved to stay Judge Nelson’s decision to lift the lockout.The NFL criticized Judge Nelson’s decision by stating it “blinks reality” and is “deeply flawed,” and it has forced teams to “produce their collective product” and expose themselves to additional antitrust claims.  Without a stay, the NFL said, it would be impossible to “unscramble the egg in terms of player transactions (trades, signings, cuts) that would occur in the interim” before a ruling from the appeals court.”

The NFL continues with their argument that the federal court has no jurisdiction over this matter while a bad-faith negotiation charge against the players is pending with the National Labor Relations Board; that federal law prevents the court from overseeing cases stemming from labor disputes; and that it shouldn’t be subject to antitrust claims with the collective bargaining deal barely expired.

The former NFL Players’ Association has until this afternoon to respond to the League’s motion for stay, and the NFL’s reply to that is set for Monday morning.

Attorneys for the players said the Judge Nelson’s decision “is in full, immediate force. And that the NFL and the clubs will be in contempt of court if they do not comply with the order.”

NFL’s Request for Stay Denied.

U.S. District Judge Susan Nelson has declined the National Football League’s request to “stay” her ruling wherein she granted the NFL Players’ injunction lifting the lockout.

The league, not being surprised by the ruling, commented, “We are filing tonight a request with the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals for a stay of the preliminary injunction pending our appeal. We believe there are strong legal and practical reasons that support a stay and that the Court of Appeals should have an opportunity to address the important legal issues that will be presented.”

Judge Nelson, however, did not rule as to what “economic system” the League should install, leaving that issue up to the owners to decide. She stated, “it was not her concern essentially whether that system ultimately violated antitrust laws.”  The Judge’s ruling, therefore, does not make it clear whether the teams are forced to begin free agency or are to open their facilities to the players.

The players’ contend that free agency should begin immediately, they should have access to team facilities and it should be business as usual throughout the NFL.  The players’ stated that if the owners fail to do/allow such, “They could face contempt for being in blatant violation of a Court Order.”

Attorney Carla Varriale Successfully Argues Broken Bat Case on Behalf of the New York Mets & Major League Baseball

Mr. James G. Falzon sued the New York Mets and Major League Baseball after being injured when shards from a broken bat flew into the stands where he was sitting at Shea Stadium.  He claims, per his complaint, that more should have been done to protect him from the “break-prone” maple bats that were being used by Mets’ players, in this case Luis Castillo.

Mr. Falzon alleges the New York Mets and MLB failed to keep him “reasonably safe from hazards they had actual knowledge of, including the increased danger posed by shattering maple bats,” and “that the players were not careful enough in inspecting and maintaining their bats.”

In addition, Mr. Falzon claims research indicates that maple bats shatter more readily than traditional ash bats referencing a MLB study that found maple bats were three times as likely to break in multiple places than the traditional ash bat.  (Baseball bats have traditionally been made from ash trees, but maple bats have gained ground in recent years. Two main reasons: Barry Bonds used them to break the single-season home run record and the career home run record.)

Sounds like a strong case, right?   But no – Mr. Falzon never met Attorney Carla Varriale.

Attorney Varriale correctly argued before the court that the issue isn’t whether maple bats are more likely to break than traditional ash bats, the issue is that all fans, including Mr. Falzon, who enter Shea Stadium are warned in advance about the possibility of bat fragments going into the stands and fans assume the risk of incidents such as this occurring during the course of a game.  Fans have traditionally been held that if you go to a baseball game, you assume the risk of getting hit by a foul ball or broken bat.

“[Falzon and his family] admit that they voluntarily sat in an unprotected area of Shea Stadium in field box seats that were located in close proximity to the playing field, with the knowledge that they could be injured,” Varriale stated.  (Under New York law, baseball stadiums have to have protective netting for the seats behind home plate.)

Because Attorney Varriale correctly identified the key issues and argued the appropriate legal precedent, the Judge rejected the plaintiff’s claim and dismissed the matter.

Both the New York Mets and Major League Baseball are grateful that due to Attorney Varriale’s legal skills, intellect and hard work, neither of them are to be held liable when a fan is struck by a “break-prone” maple bat while attending a baseball game.

Romano On Sports would like to congratulate friend, colleague, Columbia University professor, and publisher of, Attorney Carla Varriale for successfully arguing this case.  We would also would like to congratulate the New York Mets for doing something they don’t do frequently – win.

Mr. Falzon plans to appeal. 

Val Ackerman: “Is Gender a Factor When It Comes to Leadership?”

Columbia University Professor and former President of the WNBA, Val Ackerman, has written an fantastic article for ESPN W entitled: “Is Gender a factor when it comes to leadership?”   Here is an excerpt, but for the entire article please go to the  link provided below.

The topic of leadership in the business world has been widely dissected, and in sports, as in other business segments, examples of both good leaders and bad leaders abound. I co-teach (with Neal Pilson, an eminently respected sports media executive) a class at Columbia University about leadership in the sports industry. In it, we address the styles and traits of good leaders, as well as the various disciplines (decision-making, communication, planning, etc.) that we believe leaders in sports would do well to master in order to be successful.
Interestingly enough, one of the dimensions of leadership that Neal and I have not explored in our class is gender. Neal likes to say that “leaders come in all shapes and sizes,” and if anything, our curriculum is gender-neutral — meaning that the traits and skills we cover can and should apply to any leader, men and women alike. For my part, I’ve deliberately made gender a non-issue with our students, choosing instead to focus on personal qualities (Are you an optimist? Can you hold up under pressure?), core competencies (Are you a good communicator? Do you know how to manage your time?) and substance (Do you understand profit and loss? How would you describe your target audience?) that would work for any and all. 
But having worked in the sports world for more than 20 years, and having seen the relative (and continued) scarcity of women in key roles, I often think about how gender plays into leadership in sports and whether it can be said that sports are, or could ever be, truly gender-neutral on this subject. . .  
 Thanks Val.  Great stuff.