Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul has gotten paid indirectly by the NFL’s broadcast partners for the past six years. He’s still hoping to get paid directly by one of those broadcast partners through the legal system.
The latest details in the invasion of privacy lawsuit filed by Pierre-Paul against ESPN and Adam Schefter surfaced recently from Julia Marsh of the New York Post.
ESPN and Schefter have taken an aggressive approach. First, ESPN and Schefter have exercised their right to remove the case from Florida state court to Florida federal court. That’s a no-brainer move in nearly every case of a company being sued in a state where it’s not headquartered or incorporated. Home cooking (or at least the perception of it) is very real when it comes to state courts vs. federal courts. State court judges are elected, which means that state court cases often skew in the favor of residents of the state and against the interests of those who aren’t. The mere fact that the federal government welcomes cases involving out-of-state defendants represents an official acknowledgment of this dynamic.
Second, ESPN and Schefter want the case to be thrown out based on First Amendment grounds.
“The First Amendment prohibits punishing truthful speech relating to matters of public concern,” ESPN and Schefter contend in paperwork filed in court, via Marsh. “It is clear that football, including a serious injury suffered by a professional football player, is a legitimate public concern.”
ESPN and Schefter also are pursuing sanctions, according to Marsh, against Pierre-Paul for filing an allegedly “meritless” case. That argument arises under Florida’s “SLAPP” statute, which prohibits the filing of lawsuits “without merit and primarily because [the defendant] has exercised the constitutional right of free speech in connection with a public issue.” If successful, ESPN and Schefter will be entitled to recover the attorney fees incurred in defending against the case directly from Pierre-Paul.
In documents filed Thursday, Pierre-Paul explained that he’s not challenging whether the report regarding the amputation of his finger is newsworthy but whether ESPN and Schefter went beyond First Amendment protections by corroborating an undisputed report by publicizing a photograph of Pierre-Paul’s medical records.
“ESPN does not explain how [Pierre-Paul’s] medical records were of legitimate public concern, as opposed to simply reporting that the injury occurred,” Pierre-Paul’s lawyer writes. “Nothing exempt sports reporters from the law’s protection of medical records.”
The case heads to court for a hearing later this month. If the motion to dismiss filed by ESPN and Schefter is denied, the case eventually will be set for a trial.