For a litigator and lifelong sports fan, nothing could be more exciting than the confluence of baseball and the law. Even something as mundane as a simple collections matter takes on new meaning when it’s baseball’s erstwhile mega-star and youngest player to 500 home runs, Alex Rodriguez, refusing to pay a $380,000 tab.
In August 2013, Major League Baseball suspended Rodriguez for a total of 211 regular-season games for violating the league’s performance-enhancing drug policy. Rodriguez retained sports lawyer, David Cornwell, and his firm, Gordon Rees Scully Mansukhani, LLP – commonly known as Gordon & Rees – to represent him in his appeal of the suspension. Mr. Cornwell is known as the “go to” lawyer for athletes in trouble, having obtained a successful result for Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers in an arbitration involving elevated testosterone levels.
According to the twelve-page, five-count civil complaint filed by Gordon & Rees against Rodriguez in United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, Rodriguez entered into a fee agreement with Gordon & Rees in which he agreed to pay a standard hourly rate of $400 for partners, and $225-$375 for associates. Gordon & Rees alleges that this is a “fraction” of the rates charged by other lawyers retained by Rodriguez in connection with his suspension.
Cornwell hit the ground running, staking out an aggressive and controversial position for his client. Over the next eight months, Gordon & Rees purportedly spent thousands of attorney and staff hours on what it dubs “one of the most high-stakes sports litigations in history.” The Complaint further alleges that, despite numerous oral and written promises from Rodriguez and his representatives that all legal accounts would be paid, Rodriguez failed to pay more than $380,000 in legal fees. The services are purportedly detailed in “painstaking detail” in 128 pages of invoices provided to Rodriguez. (The invoices are not, however, attached to the Complaint.)
The Complaint alleges that Rodriguez received instructions from his adviser, Desiree Perez of Roc Nation LLC, “not to pay the invoices, and to make Gordon & Rees sue” him. Roc Nation is an entertainment company founded in 2008 by hip hop artist Jay-Z with a boutique sports division representing CC Sabathia, Robinson Cano, and Kevin Durant, among others. Sports fans and followers of the Rodriguez saga may recognize Perez as an influential figure in Rodriguez’s decision to fight the suspension.
The Complaint asserts five counts against Rodriguez for breach of contract, quantum meruit, unjust enrichment, promissory estoppel, account stated, and specific performance. Gordon & Rees seeks damages in the amount of $380,058.91, together with pre-judgment interest, costs, and attorneys’ fees. Assuming the matter is not settled prior to trial, the final verdict or award could end up being substantially more expensive for A-Rod than anticipated.