Based on some requests that we have received, we thought we would dig a bit deeper into the recently filed civil allegations against Nate Jaqua of the Seattle Sounders. The primary cause of action against Jaqua sounds in “battery”. Under Oregon law, a battery is simply described as a “voluntary act that is intended to cause the resulting harmful or offensive contact”.
We touched briefly yesterday on the vicarious liability portion of the complaint (i.e. the allegations against MLS and the various teams). In part, such a cause of action requires a showing that the primary actor performed the alleged battery in the scope of his employment. In a recent juvenile sexual assault case, the Oregon Court of Appeals found that a priest who had been alleged to committ certain sexual acts during the course of working with a youth did not commit those acts within the confines of his employment. The Court found that simply assisting the claimant with a knee injury was not sufficient to rise to the pastoral duties required under the priest’s job description.
While the facts in the Jaqua matter are still emerging, it is difficult to see how the complaint sets forth sufficient facts to show that he was acting in the scope of his employment. Using the analysis from the Archdiocese case above, it seems that plaintiff faces a difficult hurdle in relating the alleged battery to Jaqua’s soccer career.
One interesting procedural issue may arise because of the potential jurisdictional issues raised in the Complaint. The plaintiff resides in Canada, MLS is located in New York, the Galaxy in California and Houston in Texas. The defendants may seek to “remove” this case to Federal Court because of this diverse citizenship, thereby taking the matter from Oregon State Courts. As a practical matter, this would likely have the impact of moving the case more efficiently, as Federal Courts tend to move faster than their state counterparts. Perhaps more importantly, Federal Court judges (who have a lifetime appointment), are usually far more receptive to motions aimed dimissing the complaint prior to trial. Such a tactic may especially benefit the teams and the league, because the of the difficulty in proving the vicarious liability portion of this case.
We will hopefully return to the world of soccer and business tomorrow, but will certainly keep our eye on this case.