Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Bertuzzi, Moore & Possible Settlement

TSN’s Bob McKenzie is reporting that lawyers for Todd Bertuzzi and Steve Moore are engaged in “deep negotiations” with a view to settling the lawsuit. He has also reported that settlement is not yet finalized. There have been reports that the lawsuit has been settled. However, those reports are premature.

Moore NHL playing career ended in March 2004 when Bertuzzi, playing for Vancouver, jumped on Moore of the Colorado Avalanche from behind, and drove his head into the ice. As a result of the incident, Moore broke three vertebrae and will not play NHL hockey again.

Typically in civil cases (suing for money), parties are engaged in settlement discussions throughout the entire process. While it’s a standard occurrence, as the trial date bears down on the parties, there is an added incentive for the parties to settle. The certainty of settlement is often preferred to the uncertainty of a trial decision. Parties are further incentivised to settle in light of Court rules that penalize parties if they refuse a reasonable settlement offer.

Reports are that Moore is seeking about $38 million. I can’t confirm whether that is accurate. His lawyer Tim Danson, though, will consider a number of factors when arriving at a proposed dollar figure.

First, he will want Bertuzzi to compensate Moore for his lost NHL earnings. Bertuzzi would argue that Moore was a fringe fourth liner that had very limited earning potential and may not have stuck around the NHL. On the flip side, Moore will argue that at the age of 25 he was coming into his own and was poised to enjoy a long and fruitful career in the NHL. For example, Danson could take the position that Moore would have played 10 years at an average salary of $2 million a year, which would take his hockey earnings to $20 million. That number may be low for a 10 year veteran, but that’s q starting point. Ultimately, it is difficult to predict and the sides would each bring in experts to opine on the likely trajectory of Moore’s career. As you can appreciate, the sides would have entirely different opinions.

Danson will also want compensation for Moore’s lost future earnings outside of hockey to the extent that Bertuzzi is responsible. Danson has alleged that 10 years after the incident, Moore is still suffering from concussion symptoms and has difficulty focusing on a given task. As a result, Danson would argued that his client’s future earning potential has been substantially compromised.

Danson would maintain that Moore’s earning potential outside of hockey was likely to be substantial. Moore is a Harvard grad who had aspirations to work in the financial sector. Theoretically, he could have been a good earner, but because of his cognitive injury, he won’t be. As a result, Moore must be compensated for that loss.

Part of the monetary equation will include compensation for Moore’s pain and suffering and payment of part of his legal fees.

The issue of quantum is certainly a complex one and requires expert evidence. Both sides will likely have very different ideas of what constitutes appropriate compensation under the circumstances. But you can see how quickly things add up.

Under settlement is formally announced and all documents are signed, the case is not settled.

And one more thing: the terms of settlement will be confidential unless the parties agree for partial disclosure of terms. In cases with great public profile, that can happen. However, in this case, don’t bet on it.

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