United States: Tom Brady Vs. The NFL: A Classic Fight For Home-field Advantage

On Tuesday, the NFL issued a final written decision denying the NFL Players Association's appeal of Tom Brady's suspension for his alleged involvement in "Deflate-Gate."  The decision is signed by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.  Within hours of the decision, the NFL filed a lawsuit on its home field in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.  The NFL's five-page lawsuit asks the court to confirm the NFL's decision.  On Wednesday, Brady filed a fifty-four page complaint in the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota asking the court to vacate, or overturn, the NFL's decision.

Despite the competing lawsuits, only one of these federal courts will decide the case.  Federal courts generally follow what is called the "first-filed rule," which states that when two lawsuits have been filed in different courts relating to the same dispute, the first-filed suit has priority, and the later-filed suit should be dismissed or stayed.  There are exceptions to this rule, but the court in which the first-filed suit is pending gets to decide whether an exception applies. 

The Southern District of New York will analyze two potential exceptions to the first-filed rule: (1) whether special circumstances warrant giving priority to the second suit; and (2) whether the balance of convenience favors the second-filed action.  See Employers Ins. of Wausau v. Fox Entm't Group, Inc., 522 F.3d 271, 274 (2d Cir. 2008).

Special circumstances exist when a lawsuit is filed in response to a direct threat of litigation that gives specific warnings as to deadlines and subsequent legal action.  It was widely reported that Brady intended to file a lawsuit if the NFL upheld his suspension, so this factor likely weighs in favor of transfer of the dispute to Minnesota.

Special circumstances also exist when the first-filed case was the result of a practice known as "forum shopping" whereby litigants seek out a perceived favorable forum for their dispute.  Did the NFL choose a favorable forum?  Or course, but it also chose its home forum rather than a faraway district with little connection to the actual events.  More accurately, the NFL "forum-fenced" in its home district, as the NFL is headquartered in Manhattan, which is also where many of the underlying events took place and many of the witnesses are located.  This factor weighs in favor of the Southern District of New York keeping the case.

Brady himself engaged in classic forum-shopping by seeking out a district with little to no nexus to the dispute in the hopes of drawing a favorable judge.  By filing in Minnesota, Brady was hoping to draw the Honorable David Doty who not only ruled against the NFL and in favor of Adrian Peterson earlier this year, but also ruled against the NFL several times in the past.  Brady's case was not initially assigned to Doty; however, the assigned judge can transfer the case to Doty and, if he does not, Brady could seek transfer to Doty.  

The balance of convenience factor heavily favors keeping the case in the Southern District of New York. The NFL is headquartered on Park Avenue and many of the witnesses are NFL personnel who live and work in the New York area.  There is virtually no reason for Brady to sue in Minnesota other than to seek out Judge Doty.  The allegation in Brady's complaint setting forth why Minnesota is an appropriate venue simply states, "[t]he NFL regularly transacts business in this district," a general statement that could be made about any district in the country.  The forum shopping and balances of convenience analysis would be much different had Brady filed in Boston in the District of Massachusetts where the Patriots and their witnesses are located.  On the whole, the NFL has the much better argument to keep the case in New York.

However, the NFL and Goodell's control over the appeals process and the ultimate decision provides Brady with perhaps his best argument for a unique set of "special circumstances."  The NFL drafted the Brady decision and controlled the timing of its release (normally Brady's specialty).  The NFL then coordinated the release of its decision with the filing of its lawsuit several hours later.  The NFL no doubt had its lawsuit pre-drafted and ready to file as soon as it released its decision.  It is apparent from a review of Brady's complaint that his legal team had much of the complaint pre-drafted; however, Brady still had to wait for the release of the NFL's decision, and his lawyers had to parse the decision for potential arguments and then finalize and file his complaint.  If Brady wants to fight over the forum, then Brady should argue the NFL's control over the process and the timing of the decision deprived Brady of his rights as the natural plaintiff to seek redress for his four-game suspension in his chosen forum.  Additionally, the NFL was in such a rush to file its complaint that its lawyers neglected to sign the civil cover sheet, an administrative form accompanying lawsuits.  The NFL did not correct the filing until Wednesday, the same day Brady filed his suit.  Brady may also argue for transfer to Minnesota on these grounds.  

Early Thursday morning, Judge Richard Kyle in Minnesota ordered transfer of Brady's case to the Southern District of New York, noting "[t]his Court...perceives no reason for this action to proceed in Minnesota." 

Brady's lawyers have indicated they will seek an injunction in the near future to allow Brady to stay on the field while the lawsuit plays out. This is a potentially risky move because Brady is currently due to serve his suspension during the first four games of the season.  If Brady is successful in obtaining an injunction, but later loses the case, he risks serving his suspension during more critical late season games, or even the playoffs.  Brady's response to the NFL's suit is due on August 13.  It is unlikely that Brady's team (legal, that is) will wait that long because Brady's other team, the New England Patriots, hosts the Green Bay Packers at 7:30 p.m. on August 13 for both teams' first preseason game.  

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
 
In association with
Related Topics
 
Related Articles
 
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.

Disclaimer

The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.

General

Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions