Slog News & Arts

Line Out

Music & Nightlife

« After We Ban Plastic Shopping ... | In the Last 24 Hours on Line O... »

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Court Report

posted by on April 17 at 13:54 PM

The Sonics story is all over the basketball blogs. (Even my favorite Washington Wizards blog is on about Save Our Sonics.)

Today, True Hoop, theee basketball blog, has a roundup.

Yesterday, True Hoop linked local sports writin’ wonder Seth Kolloen’s take on the story.

The most interesting link, however, is to a straight-up legal blog, Above the Law, which pans Howard Schultz’s plan to sue Clay Bennett. Schultz is accusing Bennett of bad faith for saying he intended to keep the team here. As The Seattle Times recently reported with a trove of emails, Bennett was BSing about that.

Here’s Above the Law’s (above my head) take:

Although certain emails seem to indicate that the Sonics’ new ownership group may have been privately planning to move the team to Oklahoma City from the very beginning of negotiations, this behavior alone does not likely provide grounds for complete rescission of a sale-of-franchise contract for lack of a “good faith effort.” Not only is the issue of what constitutes “good faith” under this sort of clause vague, but, even more importantly, the doctrine of “substantial performance” states that performance is considered complete once the essential and material obligation is accomplished, and any shortfall from full performance thereafter is compensable only by monetary damages. The essential obligation of the new Sonics ownership group was simply to pay Schultz the full purchase price for the team, and the new ownership did that, paying a premium to boot. Under Washington state law, “if more than one promise is made [in a contract], each promise does not have to be substantially performed. Overall, substantial performance is sufficient.” Mortimer v. Dirks, 57 Wash. 402, 107 P. 184 (1910). In other words, breach of a secondary promise not vital to the core of the contract itself is insufficient to rescind the contract in full.

Although one way potentially around the doctrine of substantial performance may involve bringing a separate claim based on fraudulent inducement, a fraud claim under Washington law similarly is a nonstarter. Under Washington law, Schultz would have to show convincing evidence of “(1) a representation of existing fact, (2) that is material, (3) and false, (4) the speaker knows of its falsity, (5) intent to induce another to act, (6) ignorance of its falsity by the listener, (7) the latter’s reliance on the truth of the representation, (8) his right to rely on it, and (9) consequent damage.” Pedersen v. Bibioff, 64 Wash. App. 710, 723 n. 10 (1992). Even without knowing all of the facts, proving element nos. 2, 3, 4, 6, and 7 each would likely present some difficulty for Schultz.

Meanwhile, The Seattle Times has a new story up: Bennett is now accusing Mayor Nickels of bad faith, saying he has proof that the city was dealing with Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer all along in a plot to buy the Sonics back.

RSS icon Comments


Schultz's lawsuit is all about saving face in his home town. I used to love the Sonics. but if this is how the NBA is going to do business, then fuck them all. Their chickenshit shall come home to roost.

Posted by DOUG. | April 17, 2008 2:52 PM

I've never been much of a b-ball fan, so I never went to see a Sonics game when I lived in Seattle. That being said, bad-faith owners seem to have a history in Seattle, and I do remember anguishing over the difficulties with M's and Seahawk ownership.

My advice to the city of Seattle would be to negotiate with Bennett to keep the Sonics name for Seattle, let him take his pathetic team to OKC, where its sure to lose money, they don't want the OKC SONICS anyway so it should be a no brainer. Then sue the bejeezus out of the NBA for foisting this bad-faith ownership upon the city and causing so much grief. Fresh team, same name, fresh start. Easy peazy.

Posted by Daniel | April 17, 2008 3:25 PM

Uh, Daniel, this "pathetic team" has the 2008 Rookie of the Year in Kevin Durant, another top 10 rookie in Jeff Green, a good possibility of getting the #1 overall pick next year and a crapload of first round draft picks coming up. Don't let this tank job of a season fool you: This is a dynasty in the making.

Posted by DOUG. | April 17, 2008 3:33 PM


Posted by Cale | April 17, 2008 3:58 PM

Above the Law isn't a legal blog. It's a gossip rag for those in the legal community.

Posted by AnonymousCoward | April 17, 2008 5:41 PM

Comments Closed

In order to combat spam, we are no longer accepting comments on this post (or any post more than 14 days old).