Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Teachable torts, Patriots edition: Civil complaint against Antonio Brown

Antonio Brown in 2014 (by Brook Ward CC BY-NC 2.0)
New England news is afire today over the civil lawsuit filed against NFL Patriots football acquisition Antonio Brown.  It happens that many 1L law students are presently immersed in their first exposures to intentional torts and federal jurisdiction.  So here from Mnwilla at Scribd is the complaint and some comments for thought.

Notes and Questions

1. The case is filed in federal court in Florida, but the claims are all in state tort law. What is the basis for federal jurisdiction?  Why do you think the complaint was filed on Brown's first scheduled day of practice with the Patriots?

2. The fact statement is lengthy, paragraphs 14 to 74. But federal practice requires only "notice pleading."  Plaintiff's counsel gives up a lot of information about the plaintiff's theory of the case by putting more content than necessary into pleadings.  So why so much ink on factual allegations?

3. There are five straightforward counts, or causes: two in battery, one in false imprisonment, one in IIED, and one in invasion of privacy.
  • Notice how false imprisonment appears incidentally to other claims.  Unlike MBE hypotheticals, few cases in real life support false imprisonment by itself. 
  • One of the battery counts is called "sexual battery (rape)."  That's not really a distinct kind of battery in multistate common law, and it doesn't here appear to be covered by any specific statute, apart from common law.  Nevertheless, a plaintiff may claim separate counts of tort upon discrete factual bases.  What are the advantages of doing so?
  • What challenges does the plaintiff face in proving IIED?  Do the factual allegations get her there?  Is there vulnerability on this count or any other to a 12(b)(6) motion?

4. The plaintiff seeks punitive damages, and the bases for that claim are stated within the counts. Some jurisdictions require that sufficient allegations to support a claim for punitive damages be stated in a separate count, even though "punitive damages" is a damages claim, not a tort.  Can you discern the rule for punitive damages in the state jurisdiction, based on the allegations?


  1. Thanks Professor, this is interested to be able to read the full complaint vs just hearing what they tell you on the news. In addition to your questions, I also wonder why only the Tort as opposed to also criminal chargers against AB?

  2. Great question! The complaint has indeed attracted the attention of authorities:

    1. Thanks for the info, Professor. I plan to read the complaint tonight and review your questions. I'm interested to read the facts, given the timing of her complaint. As my husband had now coined as "rape-gate". The Pats seem to always have to deal with some form of "gate" every season, lol.


    2. 1. Because both parties reside in different states. The amount in controversy exceeds $75,000 (places it in federal court). Florida federal court because the incident occurred here. (???)

      2. No idea, I have not taken Civ Pro yet. Perhaps because it is a high publicity case and the victim wants her story to be heard--now! (???)

      3. a: I thought is was interesting when I came across the false imprisonment. But it does seem to be a legit allegations. A rape, could also be false imprisonment because they were not free to leave.

      3. b: Since there is no Tort for Sexual Battery (rape), I can see the only reason for this to show that he committed battery in different ways. I also didn't put 2 and 2 together with offense contact as being what he did to her at line 81 and 82. I was thinking more on the line of traditional offensive contact: punching, hitting, spitting, etc. However, I clearly see how that would be offensive contact, which is why it is "offensive contact" versus "hitting or punching" to include all different types of offensive contact.

      4. I am not sure I truly understand the question. But could the punitive damages be included because the conduct was outrageous and willful and wanton?