Suit over YES Network origins dismissed

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In August, Bob Gutkowski, one-time head of MSG and Yankee confidant, filed a suit against George Steinbrenner over the origins of the YES Network. Gutkowski claimed that he proposed the idea of a regional sports network owned by the Yankees in 1998, four years before the launch of YES, and that Steinbrenner later promised him an executive position at YES only to renege on that promise later on.

Earlier this week, Judge Richard Sullivan of the Southern District threw out the suit on some technical legal grounds. According Richard Sandomir of The Times, Sullivan said that Gutkowski failed to adequately plead damages and that the “‘purported oral agreement’ was unenforceable.” I would expect Gutkowski to appeal.

For those interested in the legal rationale behind the dismissal, Judge Sullivan’s decision is available here as a PDF and embedded below.

Gutkowski v. Steinbrenner Decision

In the Bronx, building a team on a budget
Open Thread: PECOTA puts Yanks out of playoffs
  • Steve H

    The Yankees, like Parker Lewis, can’t lose.

  • The Three Amigos

    Cosmo Kramer: They’re redoing the Cloud Club.
    Jerry: Oh, that restaurant on top of the Chrysler building? Yeah, that’s a good idea.
    Cosmo Kramer: Of course it is, it’s my idea.
    Jerry: Which part? The renovating the restaurant you don’t own part, or spending the 200 million you don’t have part?

  • steve s

    Gutkowski’s suit doesn’t pass the smell test. If he had any legitimate claims he would have brought an action years ago. An unenforceable oral agreement is tantamount to saying that the lawsuit was effectively a non-starter. No legit lawyer is going to appeal this one.

    • Benjamin Kabak

      You could say that about anyone filing this suit in the first place. That’s why I wouldn’t be surprised if an appeal is filed.

      • Derek Jacques

        I’d be surprised if an appeal isn’t filed, too, just because it’s a legal CYA measure these days. The lawyer (legit or not) already certified that this dog of a suit wasn’t frivolous when he filed it, so the only thing limiting an appeal is Gutkowski’s appetite for spending money.

        But I think that Ben’s understated how badly the court thrashed this guy’s case. The Statute of Frauds goes a bit beyond losing “on technical grounds”–it says that in this case, you absolutely don’t have a contract if it isn’t in writing. Further, the lack of damages isn’t a pleading mistake on Gutkowski’s part, it’s an indication that–Statute of Frauds aside–by his own admission he and Steinbrenner only ever got halfway to having an actual agreement on anything. He’s claiming that they agreed he should get something, without saying exactly how much he would get paid, or when, or what his role would be. He simply asked the court to fill in those details.

        There’s likely to be more litigation, but it’d be a miracle if this case isn’t effectively over.

    • Steve H

      A judge sued his dry cleaner for $300 million for losing his pants. I think he’ll have no problem finding a lawyer to file his appeal.

      • JMK aka The Overshare’s Garden Apartment Complex

        With my GED in Law, I’d be more than happy to file on his behalf.

    • Whizzo the Wize

      If the suit truly lacked merit it would have lost on summary judgement grounds long ago.

      It’s curious that it made it past summary judgment given it’s lack of damages and basic failure to state a claim, but so it goes.

      Whizzo agrees, no legit lawyer would appeal this.

      Whizzo predicts a robust appeal.

      • Tom Zig

        Whizzo always has entertaining posts.

      • The Three Amigos

        Dismissal is before Summary Judgment

      • Jeremy

        This suit was dismissed on a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, which comes prior to a motion for summary judgment and before any discovery occurs. In other words, this suit didn’t make it past summary judgment; it never got to summary judgment in the first place.

        • Tom Zig

          So in other words, this law suit is El F***ed-o

    • T-Dubs

      Legit lawyer? What’s that?

  • Tom Zig

    Rule 12(b)(6) gives me nightmares of Civil Procedure.

  • Accent Shallow

    Well, IANAL, but in the case of an oral agreement, isn’t it essentially his word against Steinbrenner’s?

    Favorite internet acronym: engaged

    • Jeremy

      The New York “statute of frauds” prevents that from happening. Any kind of significant business agreement has to be in writing or it’s not enforceable in court.

  • Jeremy

    This complaint was garbage. Here is a rundown of why it was dismissed:

    1. The plaintiff alleged an agreement that he would be “compensated fairly” for his YES Network idea. He didn’t allege what that compensation was supposed to be. As a result, his complaint was missing a necessary component: what Steinbrenner supposedly failed to pay him under the contract.

    2. The plaintiff alleged a verbal contract to compensate him for coming up with the YES Network. There was nothing in writing. In New York (and probably every other state), certain agreements, like a contract to create a multi-million dollar business enterprise like the YES Network, have to be in writing or you can’t bring a lawsuit to enforce them.

    3. The plaintiff had a six-year time limit to file his complaint under the New York statutes of limitations. The YES Network debuted in 2002. Plaintiff sued in 2009. Game over.

    I have no idea whether the plaintiff is crazy enough to waste his money on an appeal, but any intelligent appellate counsel would know he has no shot on the merits. It doesn’t help that Steinbrenner is represented by Boies Schiller, one of the best law firms in the country.