Friday, December 24, 2010

Favre/Sterger Decision

Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk has written an article (a fantastic columnist by the way) theorizing that the NFL may be waiting until after the statute of limitations expires on a possible sexual harassment claim before handing down its ruling thereby precluding Sterger from suing Favre for sexual harassment:
"With Sterger’s camp claiming that she won’t sue if Favre is found responsible for wrongdoing, delaying a finding of no wrongdoing until after the deadline for filing a lawsuit has passed prevents a viable lawsuit from being filed.

Sterger’s lawyer, Joseph Conway, told PFT earlier this month that the last communication between Favre and Sterger while both were employed by the Jets occurred on December 28, 2008. In New Jersey, the statute of limitations for filing sexual harassment claims is two years. Thus, the deadline for filing a sexual harassment claim under New Jersey law comes and goes early next week."
A “statute of limitation” is a time frame that defines the length of time an individual has to sue someone. The time limit begins when an injury occurs, or is discovered, and concludes on the latest date the injured person can file suit. These time limits vary from state to state, and depend on the type of claim that is filed. The time frame usually begins when the injury or wrongful act occurs. However, some states may allow a claim to proceed if the wrongdoing or injury was not discovered until a later date, at which point the clock would start ticking as of the date its discovered.

Statute of limitation laws serve two basic purposes:

1) To protect a potential defendant from being forever at risk for a lawsuit; and 

2) To ensure that legitimate lawsuits are filed while evidence and memories are still fresh.
Mr. Florio's theory is interesting and may well be something the NFL is weighing . It is possible that Sterger's lawyers could file suit before the expiration of the deadline to preserve Sterger's position at law. As well, there may be creative ways of extending the deadline (e.g., when did Sterger become aware of the wrong) or it could be argued that while Sterger was still employed by the Jets post-December 28, more advances were made (not sure if she was). There may also be other causes of action to examine with different limitation periods.
Ultimately, it would not be surprising if the NFL doesn't come down too hard on Favre. Perhaps it may fine him. As well, it may amend its existing Personal Conduct Policy to cover sexual behaviour or put in place an entirely different policy.
The NFL has a very real balancing act as discussed in my article reviewing the different angles at play. The NFL will move, in my opinion, very prudently and are unlikely to make any overly rash decisions. A decision could come before or around the New Year, when people are generally more distracted with explaining to people why their family gives them migraines.

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