A question for the jury. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
To: Philadelphia Phillies Legal Department
Date: April 14, 2011
Mr. Lannan’s actions likely do not make him criminally liable for assault, but do constitute gross negligence at best, and at worst willful and malicious behavior making Mr. Lannan vulnerable to substantial exposure in a civil suit, including a possible award of punitive damages.
Looking at the infamous matter of Utley v. Lannan, Chase Utley was riding high in 2007 and was widely considered a favorite for the National League’s Most Valuable Player Award. Then, disaster struck on July 26, 2007, in the form of John Lannan, who hit Mr. Utley in the wrist with a dangerously inside pitch, breaking his hand and knocking him out of the lineup for almost a month.
We will use the Utley v. Lannan matter as a useful exemplar for calculations of damages in future cases.
In calculating the quantum of damages in Utley v. Lannan, we refer to Fangraphs.com, which calculates the "Value" of Chase Utley’s 2007 performance at $31.6 million over 132 games. Excellent production, but over 162 games, we can extrapolate that to $38.8 million, leaving a difference of $7.2 million, which we will use as a baseline for a calculation of damages.
Of course a jury will be charged to look to comparative negligence – did the Plaintiff contribute in any way to his injury? The Phillies, as a potential litigant, must analyze Utley’s actions. Utley is widely regarded as a hitter who "crowds the plate," making himself more vulnerable to injuries of this type. While this does not outright excuse Lannan’s actions, a potential litigant must be aware that a jury is obligated to take this into account, and we anticipate that a reasonable jury could assign 20% comparative negligence to Mr. Utley, leaving us with $5.76 million in compensatory damages.
The Phillies would be wise to seek punitive damages against Mr. Lannan as well. If a jury deems Mr. Lannan’s repeated acts of inside pitchery to be so outrageous as to warrant an award of punitive damages, the Phillies could find themselves with a substantial verdict. The Phillies would have to establish by a preponderance of the evidence that Mr. Lannan was acting consciously and deliberately in pitching inside, putting Mr. Utley and the other Phillies at unreasonable risk. If the Phillies can establish that Lannan was acting with intent to injure, or that his behavior was otherwise outrageous under the circumstances, the Phillies could find themselves recipients of a substantial award for punitive damages.
To that end, we have established a pattern of behavior on the part of Mr. Lannan versus the Phillies. A fair minded jury could assume that these actions form a valid basis for a determination that Lannan's behavior is intentional.
At this time, I would recommend that the Phillies begin negotiations at Ryan Zimmerman and Bryce Harper, but that they be prepared to resolve the matter for Stephen Strasburg and the Abraham Lincoln "Racing President" costume.
Very Truly Yours,