Legal Analyst: Florida Law Allows Dolphins Lineman to Sue Dolphins, Incognito for Millions
An ESPN legal analyst said Jonathan Martin could sue the Dolphins and Richie Incognito under Florida law for millions.
According to Lester Munson, "the law of Florida has just what Martin needs as a basis for a formidable lawsuit":
A Florida law -- Evidencing Prejudice While Committing Offense -- provides the legal foundation for a civil lawsuit that would seek to assess monetary damages against Incognito. It provides for money damages for anyone who "has been intimidated or threatened" on the basis of "race or color." News accounts indicate there is little doubt Incognito has been threatening and intimidating Martin for many months, and that a portion of his attacks were based on race.
Incognito's use of the N-word and his threats "to kill" would appear to qualify Martin for money damages at Incognito's expense.
According to Munson, "Florida law provides for triple damages -- yes, triple damages -- and would allow Martin to collect his legal fees from Incognito. These provisions could produce a significant jury verdict for Martin at Incognito's expense":
Martin's current salary is a bit more than $600,000. If he were to return to the NFL and enjoy a typical career as an offensive lineman, he would be expected to earn another $5 million or $6 million. If his career is worth $5 million, and Incognito's threats ended the career, Martin could collect as much as $15 million. Legal fees could be added to the jury award and push the total close to $17 million. Martin's career under this Florida law may be more valuable in court than it is on the field.
He predicts a jury in Miami could be favorable to Martin, and "Martin could also decide to sue the Miami Dolphins, but such a lawsuit would not be as strong as a suit against Incognito."
"To succeed against the Dolphins under this Florida law, Martin must show that Incognito's actions were part of his job as a veteran player," he writes. "If the coach knew about it and did nothing about it, then Martin has a shot. He would argue that the coach's knowledge and acceptance of Incognito's behavior means that the behavior was part of Incognito's employment. If it were part of Incognito's employment, the Dolphins would be vulnerable."
Meanwhile, since it would be impossible for Incognito to have insurance against to cover possible losses form such lawsuits, "if Martin chooses to file a lawsuit, he would be trying to collect from whatever assets Incognito has accumulated during his NFL career":
If Martin decides to try to return to the NFL, he would still have an interesting claim against Incognito. Instead of his loss of salary, Martin could demand punitive damages, an award of money that would send a message that Incognito's conduct is unacceptable.