There is an interesting lawsuit in Ohio where Eric Smith is suing the Cleveland Browns after he was falsely accused of being the fan who poured beer on Tennessee Titans cornerback Logan Ryan last month after he jumped in the stands to celebrate a touchdown. He is alleging negligence, defamation, negligent infliction of emotional distress, false light, and loss of consortium as a result of being misidentified and then banned from future games. He claims that he has not been to a game since 2010 and was serving as a DJ at a wedding at the time of the incident.
The incident occurred after Titans’ Malcolm Butler returned a pick six for 38 yards. The coverage captured a Browns’ fan dumping beer over Ryan. After the players objected, the football league promised action and the Browns investigated. The Complaint states:
On September 11th, 2019 at approximately 9:00 am less than 24 hours
after the so-called investigation, Bob Sivik Vice President of Sales and Tickets called Eric Smith’s office to inform him that they used footage from multiple security cameras in the stadium to match his face and arm tattoo. Further, this call was heard by Plaintiff’s office staff.
. . .
Plaintiff further states that despite this information, Bob Sivik, was rude,
short, and dismissive and was clearly on a mission to resolve this bad press for the Cleveland Browns and nonetheless told the Plaintiff that he was a liar, had been identified by video surveillance tapes and was banned from First Energy Stadium.
The Complaint states that Smith told Sivik at the time that he had not been to the stadium in years and was involved in the wedding. However, it was not until later that the team called to apologize.
To make matters worse, the Eric Smith who purchased the ticket does not appear to be the same man and appears to have switched seats with the real culprit, who still has not been identified.
Part of the difficulty presented by the Complaint is the damages. There is no question that the team was negligent in the Sivik call and Vice President of Communications Peter John-Baptiste allegedly said “Our intent was to act swiftly and decisively. Unfortunately, we didn’t do enough homework.” However, the team insists that they had “not explicitly identified the individual involved or taken any formal action of punishment” before realizing their mistake. However, some reports say that Smith was banned after the initial identification.
That leads to a question of the real injury and damages. Smith alleges that the stress of the call was witnessed by office colleagues and that the resulting anxiety not only cause emotional distress but deprived he and his wife of intimate relations. Moreover, he claims that the failure to make a more complete apology means that the “mental anguish, loss of income, loss of enjoyment and companionship and will continue to cause these maladies into the foreseeable future.” Without more, a jury could be skeptical on those elements.
What do you think?
Here is the complaint: Smith v. Browns