The Detroit Tigers picked up a significant victory off the field this spring when a state appeals court affirmed a judge’s ruling that a pitcher’s claim that the club was responsible for his injury was effectively barred by a combination of statutes and laws.
Douglas Brocail is a relief pitcher for the Tigers and a union member of the Major League Baseball Players Association. As such, his employment agreements with major league baseball teams are subject to a collective bargaining agreement negotiated between the players and the teams.
On June 14, 2000 in Detroit, Brocail started complaining of pain and inflammation in his right elbow. Brocail was examined and an x-ray was performed the same day, which revealed some problems. Pitching on August 18, 2000, Brocail experienced more problems and he was placed on the disabled list.
Brocail returned to the mound on April 4, 2001. That night, he heard a loud pop in his right elbow while pitching in Texas. He pitched in four more “rehabilitation outings,” then consulted Dr. Thomas Mehlhoff in Houston on April 17, 2001. He was diagnosed with a full tear of the medial collateral ligament and a partial tear of the flexor tendon. He subsequently had surgery in Houston to reconstruct the medial collateral ligament. Due to the long recovery time from the surgery, Brocail did not continue to pitch for the Astros. The Astros paid Brocail’s 2001 salary, but when his contract expired at the end of that season, it was not renewed. Brocail was not paid a salary for the 2002 and 2003 seasons. According to Brocail, he returned to pitching for the Texas Rangers in 2004.
On September 20, 2002, Brocail sued his Michigan and Texas health care providers. In addition, he sued the Club for negligence, fraud, fraudulent concealment, fraudulent inducement, negligent misrepresentation, gross negligence, and breach of contract. According to Brocail, the Club “encouraged and/or directed him to seek treatment from team personnel that did not possess the expertise, skill, training, experience, ability, competence and/or knowledge to properly diagnose and treat an elbow injury sustained by a major league baseball pitcher . . . .” Brocail further alleged that the Club encouraged or directed him to undergo treatment that would not cure his injury and failed to (a) establish policies and procedures for the treatment of its players, (b) follow team physicians’ orders, (c) fully disclose the true extent of his condition and his fitness to play baseball, (d) use reasonable care to protect his health and investment, (e) fully advise him of the adverse effects of continued medical and rehabilitative treatment, (f) advise him of options concerning his condition, (g) perform appropriate examinations, and (h) advise the Houston Astros of the true extent of his ability to play baseball. In addition, he contends the Club was negligent in hiring team personnel. Brocail also pleaded the discovery rule, agency, ostensible agency, agency by estoppel, equitable estoppel, promissory estoppel, vicarious liability, and “intentional torts,” and sought punitive damages and attorneys’ fees.
The club moved for summary judgment countering that the player’s claims were barred by the federal Labor Management Relations Act, the Michigan Workers Disability Compensation Act, and Michigan’s statute of frauds. The trial court granted the motion.
Brocail appealed the judgment, presenting nine issues on appeal:
“In his first issue, Brocail contends the Club failed to assert in its motion for summary judgment that specific parts of the CBA or UPC required interpretation in order to resolve Brocail’s claims. He argues in his second and third issues that no interpretation of any part of the CBA or UPC is required, and no part of either agreement created or precluded the duties that are the bases of his tort claims. In his fourth issue, Brocail contends that the exclusive-remedy provision of the WDCA does not bar damage claims for which it affords no compensation. Brocail argues in his fifth issue that the Club failed to negate the misrepresentation, reliance, and causation elements of his fraud claims. In his sixth issue, Brocail contends that the intentional-conduct exception to the exclusive-remedy provision of the WDCA applies. In his seventh issue, he challenges the Club’s assertion that the Michigan statute of frauds bars his claims. He argues in his eighth issue that the Club did not meet its burden to negate Brocail’s various liability allegations. Finally, Brocail contends in his ninth issue that the Club’s misrepresentations are sufficiently definite to support Brocail’s claim for promissory estoppel.”
In finding for the club, the appeals court dismissed Brocail’s argument “challenging the specificity of the Club’s assertion of the Labor-Management Relations Act as a basis for summary judgment. We further hold that the duty to provide reasonable medical care arises independently from the collective-bargaining agreement. Because that obligation is imposed by the Michigan Workers’ Compensation Disability Act, Brocail’s claims arising from an alleged breach of the duty to provide reasonable medical care are not preempted by the LMRA. On the other hand, Brocail’s claims of fraudulent inducement and failure to provide a proper second opinion are preempted by the LMRA. Thus, we overrule Brocail’s second and third issues concerning such claims.
“Brocail pleaded that those who performed the medical services at issue were ‘team personnel,’ Club trainers, agents, or independent contractors under the Club’s control. In effect, he complains that his injuries are attributable to a co-employee. Thus, the WDCA is Brocail’s exclusive remedy for any injury not caused by an ‘intentional tort’ as that phrase is defined under the Michigan WDCA. Accordingly, we overrule Brocail’s fourth and eighth issues. And because claims arising from representations concerning Brocail’s medical care and treatment are barred by Michigan’s statute of frauds, we overrule his fifth, seventh, and ninth issues.
“Finally, although the Club failed to conclusively disprove the factual allegations made in connection with Brocail’s ‘intentional tort’ claims, the claims to which Brocail attempted to apply this exception are barred by the LMRA or the Michigan statute of frauds. Thus, we overrule his sixth issue. There being no remaining claims, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.”
Douglas K. Brocail v. Detroit Tigers, Inc; Ct. App. Tex., 14th Dist.; NO. 14-06-00557-CV, 2008 Tex. App. LEXIS 2392; 4/3/08
Attorneys of Record: (for appellants) Bruce E. Ramage, Levon G. Hovnatanian, Thomas W. Pirtle, Michael Jude Lowenberg, Dale Jefferson, Houston, TX. (for appellees) Jeffrey Stewart Davis, Peter Scaff, Houston, TX.