|Matt Beech (L), Jose Offerman (M), Johnathan Nathan (R) Photo credit: Christian Abraham|
In his lawsuit, Nathans claimed that Offerman and the Long Island Ducks were guilty of (1) assault and battery, (2) negligence, and (3) reckless assault and battery. Nathans alleged a number of resulting injuries from the attack, including a concussion, post-concussion syndrome, vertigo, headaches, vestibular dysfunction, inner ear damage and post traumatic stress disorder, among others.
Motion for Summary Judgment
The Ducks filed a motion for summary judgment asking that the court dismiss them as a defendant because Offerman’s conduct was outside of the scope and course of his employment with the team; Offerman could not be held responsible for the injuries because Nathans was a co-participant in a contact sport; and, that even if held liable for the acts of Offerman, the Ducks could not be held responsible for punitive damages.
With regard to the assertion that Offerman was not within the course and scope of his employment, the court denied the motion, holding that “[a] master does not escape liability merely because his servant loses his temper while he is conducting his master’s business.” The court believed it was “not unexpected for a batter to charge the mound after being hit by a pitch.” While it was “unusual” for the batter to bring along the bat, but not unprecedented, this act was not such a clear-cut digression from his work duties that the court could dismiss the case. They felt it was a better question for the jury to answer.
As to the co-participant theory, the court granted the motion as to the negligence counts because mere negligence was not enough under Connecticut law to create liability between co-participants in a team contact sport. However, liability could be lie with reckless or intentional conduct; therefore, the motion was denied as to the assault and battery counts.
Finally, the court found that the Ducks could not be found responsible for any punitive damages assessed on the part of their employee Offerman.
This case proceeded to trial and the jury was tasked with determining whether Johnathan Nathans had proven that Jose Offerman committed an assault and/or committed a battery upon which damages could be awarded to Nathans. Additionally, the jury was asked whether Offerman’s conduct was committed within the course and scope of his employment with the ball club.
Ultimately, the jury found that Offerman had assaulted Nathans but that Nathans had not proven a battery. They awarded Nathans a total of $940,000 in damages.
The jury additionally found that Offerman was not acting in the course and scope of his employment at the time of the occurrence and in doing so, exonerated the Long Island Ducks of any wrongdoing.
Both Nathans and Offerman have filed post-trial motions asking the court for a new trial.
Nathans believes the jury incorrectly found that Offerman was not in the course of his employment at the time of the incident and that the trial court failed to give the jury proper instructions on the agency relationship.
Offerman asks for a new trial due to the inconsistencies in the jury’s findings and verdict. He argues that because he was not found to be responsible for the battery, which requires actual physical contact, he should not be responsible for damages that clearly had to have resulted from being struck by the bat. [Being found responsible for the assault would only require that Nathans was put in a reasonable fear of harm from an Offerman attack and no actual physical contact would be necessary to award damages.] Also, Offerman asked that the court to find that he was acting in the course and scope of his employment, such that the Ducks would share in the responsibility of payment of the verdict.
Updates will be posted when the court rules on these post-trial notions.
What about Jonathan Nathans since the attack?
Nathans never returned to professional baseball and instead pursued a law degree. He is currently a practicing attorney in Maine.
What about Jose Offerman since the attack?
The lifetime ban was eventually overturned and he has since managed again in the Dominican winter league and for the Veracruz Red Eagles in the Mexican League.