Why Jonathan Martin Won't Be Suing Any Time Soon
“Lawyering up” has become one of America’s favorite pastimes. Right up there with baseball, apple pie and these days, tweeting. Unfortunately, our society has fostered the idea an individual can sue for just about anything if they feel they’ve been wronged.
The Richie Incognito-Jonathan Martin saga has sparked national outrage over alleged bullying in the workplace. It’s already an incredibly sensitive topic in our country’s school system that happens to make headlines in the worst ways far too much. Incognito’s vulgarity and racist words only fueled a fire that continues to burn.
Just when things started to get interesting, the lawyers moved in. Martin reportedly checked into a hospital for alleged emotional distress. The Dolphins brass wouldn’t discuss the situation but suspended Incognito indefinitely. And finally, Incognito denied wrongdoing, later apologized, then hit the cameras for a highly restricted interview that seemed scripted by a team of you know who ... lawyers.
So while Martin, Incognito and the Dolphins appear to be bracing for courtroom drama, the sports world and the general public will not get the fireworks they expect. Martin will not go through with a lawsuit. Because it would be extremely foolish to do so.
Although Incognito’s actions were horrid, teams will almost undoubtedly shy away from a player who chooses our civil justice system to solve his disputes over a face-to-face confrontation. It makes no difference whether Martin was right or wrong in handling this situation. Teams will be weary if Martin follows through with a lawsuit.
Here’s another reason why Martin won’t bring suit against Incognito or the Dolphins: In civil actions, discovery offers an opportunity for plantiffs and defendants to gather evidence, take depositions and engage in a fierce fact-finding excursion. If Martin pursues a lawsuit, he’ll be questioned at length on just about everything in his life. This case will expose Martin on a number of levels. Players will take sides. The sports world will react. He’ll be at the epicenter of what many will feel is a calculated money-grab. It might not be the case, but that's how it will be perceived.
Finally, if he pursues a lawsuit, Martin’s legal team will almost certainly want to bring in the Dolphins organization. Speculation that the Dolphins coaching staff instructed Incognito to “toughen up” Martin has not been disputed. It’s been avoided. The coaching staff won’t address it and Incognito won’t take questions on it. The circumstantial evidence is staggering, but the obvious reason to bring in the Dolphins is for the “deep pockets.” Incognito has money, but the Dolphins are a gold mine. That being said, a suit against the Dolphins would leave Martin in exile. It’s a risky proposition for such a young player with talent.
Based on the facts we know, Incognito’s actions were horrific, racist and disgusting. If Martin did suffer emotional distress as a result of Incognito’s brashness, Martin may have the law on his side. But logic suggests otherwise. Civil suits are far more complicated than a few accusations. They can expose plaintiffs just as much as the defendants in the case.
The sports world is watching closely for what transpires, but one thing they won’t see is a lawsuit anytime soon.
Daniels is a practicing attorney in New York City.