The pre-COVID NBA championship of the Toronto Raptors over the Golden State Warriors had a controversial ending. Raptors president Masai Ujiri, who is Black, was prevented from going on the floor at the Warrior’s court in Oakland, California by Alan Strickland, an Alameda County Sherrif’s officer. They then had an 11-second shoving match which led to Strickland filing a lawsuit against Ujiri who in turn countersued for among other things racial profiling.
Twenty months after the 2019 incident and after thousands of dollars in attorneys fees, both sides agreed to drop their cases with prejudice — meaning it cannot be refiled. Neither side is paying to get out. It’s mutual.
This case involved a number of problems for both sides. Ujiri apparently was wearing the wrong credential, one that didn’t allow access to the court. Strickland had no actual damages. You can sue and win, but if you have no actual damages then what’s the point? Our court system awards damages, not “you’re right” points.
The federal judge hearing the case was essentially puzzled why this case didn’t settle earlier. She said to the attorneys, “The fact that you’re spending this much money on that case, is a little bit extraordinary. So what have you done to calm the temperatures of your clients and resolve this case?”
Meanwhile, the owners of the Raptors put out a telling statement (my emphasis):
Masai has been completely vindicated, as we always knew he would be. We are disappointed that he and his family have had to endure the past 18 months of worry and uncertainty, but for their sake we are pleased the legal process has come to an end — and especially pleased that the claims made against Masai and MLSE were dismissed entirely, free of any financial settlement. We continue to be deeply troubled by the fact that Masai was put in this position in the first place, and believe he should never have had to defend himself. Masai is taking some time to process the ordeal, and intends to address it publicly at a later date.”
I’ve covered before why people settle cases rather than go to trial (hint: save costs and avoid uncertainty). Clearly, this was weighing on Ujiri and his family given the statement put out by the Raptors. He’s human. It happens to all of us (unless you’re a sociopath or psychopath).
Note also that the judge put the burden of lowering the temperature of their clients on the attorneys. This is where a mediator is usually helpful. I am not sure if this case was assigned to mediation by the federal court. The infamous case between the NY Knicks and their former star Charles Oakley was sent to mediation.
If you need help resolving a lawsuit, consider mediation. Contact me to discuss your case.