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Apparently That Ryan Braun Lawsuit Got Dismissed (And It Exemplifies What’s Wrong with the U.S. Legal System)

Although Ryan Braun has been going through a rough patch that has seen his batting average drop by 30 points since the beginning of the month, he did get some good news last week.  He just saved a bunch of money on his car insurance  The defamation lawsuit that had been filed against him by so called close friend Ralph Sasson was dismissed with prejudice due to Sasson’s “repeated failures” to follow the rules.  I wouldn’t have noticed if not for the recap at Brew Crew Ball that linked to this terrific analysis of the dismissal by the fine people at Ron Roenicke Stole My Baseball.

I vaguely recalled that sometime last year – July 31, 2013 it turns out – some acquaintance of Braun’s (i.e., Sasson) sued the suspended slugger for something to do with his PED use.  Reading JSOnline’s summary of the complaint now (you can read the complaint itself in PDF here), one comes away with the impression the lawsuit was on shaky ground from the start:

Sasson said in the lawsuit that Braun was telling people that they were no longer friends because Sasson had been “rude to staff at Miller Park” and that Sasson was “crazy.”

Sasson requested a trial by jury but did not specify the damages he is seeking. Among those listed as knowing what Braun was doing and saying about Sasson are Brewers owner Mark Attanasio and Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, a friend and business associate of Braun. […]

Sasson, who says he is a law student, filed the lawsuit without a lawyer or “pro se.” That means he is not bound by the ethical duty of a lawyer – which bars putting known falsehoods in a lawsuit.

It seems as if the point of the suit was to somehow hold Braun accountable to the general public for his flagrant dishonesty about PED use – while also giving Sasson a chance to use the legal system as an ax to grind against Braun for their apparent falling out.

That came to an end last week.  If you’re keen you can read the dismissal order in PDF here.  At 16 pages it’s not unbearable, although probably outside the attention span of most contemporary internet users (I only skimmed it).  If you skip to page 7 and pick it up at “Sasson’s History of Misconduct” you won’t miss the best stuff.  But your best bet is to read RRSMB’s delightful summary, which is written in a handy Q&A format and loaded with gems like this:

The judge also says that Sasson was making bizarre objections to discovery requests from Braun’s lawyers. Just out of curiosity: did Sasson attempt at any point to assert the attorney-client privilege even though that privilege covers communications between an attorney and his/her client, and Sasson is a non-lawyer representing himself?

You bet he did.

What did the court think of that?

“…they are for the most part, nonsensical, and without a valid legal basis.”

There’s also a nifty explanation of “compelled self-publication” that involves an analogy of an employer firing someone for having sex with a toaster – but I won’t spoil that for you.

Despite the transparently frivolous nature of this lawsuit, it wasn’t dismissed until nearly a year after it was filed.  Part of the blame for that falls on Braun and his agent Nez Balelo for involving Sasson in the first place.  But the case (or non-case as it turned out) is yet another example of a massive failing of the U.S. tort system.

Not to get all political, but it’s no secret the U.S. is infamous for its lawsuit-happy legal system.  The reason so many unserious lawsuits happen in this country is a misalignment of incentives, as Sasson’s fishing expedition demonstrates.  If someone is able to hire an unscrupulous attorney (or if they represent themselves) they can force another party to waste nearly a year of their time and incur massive legal fees to defend themselves against a rubbish lawsuit.  The system stacks the deck in favor of plaintiffs without enough mechanisms to deter trivial complaints from being filed.

Nearly every Western democracy follows the “English Rule” where the losing side in a court case pays the winning side’s legal fees.  It may have its downsides – some argue it discourages justifiable suits since folks might not want to take a chance – but based on its wide application throughout the civilized world, it can’t be so bad.  Canada does it, and as far as I’m aware Canada is a social justice paradise.

Braun may not deserve much sympathy for his PED use and its associated consequences, but nothing justifies the kind of nonsense lawsuit that Sasson filed.  It’s a sad commentary on our sense of justice that this garbage will continue to burden the U.S. legal system for the foreseeable future.

(Image: AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)