The lawsuit filed Monday by former Dolphins offensive line coach Jim Turner against Ted Wells and his law firm didn’t include the Dolphins or the NFL as defendants. That doesn’t mean the team or the league will never be added to the proceedings.
Based on what Turner’s lawyer, Peter Ginsberg, learns during the “discovery” phase of the suit against Wells and the Paul, Weiss firm, Ginsberg could decide to amend the complaint to add the team or the league as defendants. Alternatively, it’s possible (albeit highly unlikely) that Wells and Paul, Weiss could add the Dolphins or the NFL as “third-party defendants,” arguing that the any liability the lawyer and his firm may have to Turner traces to the team and/or the league. (That would be an aggressive approach, slamming the door on the Paul, Weiss firm as a provider of legal services for the NFL in the future.)
If Turner were to sue the team or the league, the first argument likely would be that he must pursue any claims against his former employer through arbitration — a standard, non-negotiable clause in the contracts coaches are required to sign if they want to work for an NFL team. And that would likely spark an argument that an arbitration process that places the Commissioner in the position to resolve claims against the team and/or the league that employes him is inherently unfair, citing the recent decision of the Missouri Supreme Court in a case brought against the Rams by a former equipment manager.
Since Wells was supposedly “independent” (even if he really wasn’t), the lawyer and his firm likely won’t be able to argue that they arbitration clause extends to them. Which means that the case against Wells and the Paul, Weiss firm will proceed, unless and until they can find some other silver-bullet argument that ends the case before it goes to a jury.