NCAA to recover fees in O’Bannon case?
by Steve Berkowitz, USA TODAY Sports
If the NCAA prevails in an lawsuit pertaining to the use of college athletes’ names and likenesses, it could take what it says is an usual step in anti-trust cases: It may try to recover millions of dollars in legal expenses from the plaintiffs’ lead law firm, the NCAA’s chief legal officer told USA TODAY Sports on Friday.
The case has been going on for more than four years and while U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken is scheduled to hold a key hearing Wednesday, there is no sign that the litigation will be concluded anytime soon. A trial is currently set for June 2014, but the NCAA and its co-defendants on Thursday asked Wilken to reset the case schedule in a way that would move the trial date back at least three more months.
The NCAA’s lawyers have said in numerous court filings that the plaintiffs — whose lead attorneys are from the firm Hausfeld LLP’s offices in Washington, D.C. — have made improper and unfair changes in their legal strategy. The NCAA’s lawyers have said those changes have forced it and the association to spend considerably more time – and, by extension, the association’s money and human resources — on the case than they otherwise would have.
“Ordinarily, successful antitrust defendants do not recover fees. Here, the unfounded change in the theory may result in the NCAA seeking its fees from the Hausfeld firm,” NCAA executive vice president and general counsel Donald Remy said via e-mail.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs said Friday they had no comment on the matter.
In other types of legal cases, it is not unusual for the prevailing side to seek recovery of its costs.
The NCAA has an in-house legal staff at its headquarters in Indianapolis, but it routinely retains outside firms because of the volume and geographical spread of the lawsuits and other matters in which it is involved.
The name-and-likeness suit, for example, is being litigated in a federal court in Northern California, and there have been hundreds of filings and depositions in the case, in which the NCAA is being sued along with video-game maker Electronic Arts and … [For more on NCAA may seek to recover legal fees in O'Bannon case, click here.]