Los Angeles Angels remembered pitcher Tyler Skaggs as a joyous friend and teammate after he died while on a road trip to Texas in 2019, but two malpractice lawsuits filed by his family this week could bring a nastier reality to the fore. .
Discussions with attorneys from all parties in the legal fight for Skaggs’ death indicate that the matter could escalate into a referendum on the pitcher’s life.
“This could get really ugly,” said a lawyer.
Rusty Hardin, who represents the Skaggs family, said Skaggs’ widow Carli is prepared for an attack on Tyler’s reputation.
“Carli has always expected the Angels or everyone else to stoop to that, but it is something that is totally out of his control,” Hardin said. “We hope these cases will be defended on their merits rather than scorched earth attacks on Tyler.”
Sources familiar with the Angels ‘internal investigation into Skaggs’ death said the team’s attorneys are prepared to paint a stark portrait of the man they honored two years ago.
“None of that is flattering,” said a source familiar with that investigation.
The attorney for Eric Kay, the former communications director for the team that acquired and used drugs with Skaggs, suggested Tuesday that he will argue that Skaggs himself bears the greatest responsibility for his death and that his story will be fair game.
“In fact, in terms of the practicalities of your claim, good luck,” Michael Molfetta told ESPN. “There is also a principle called comparative and contributory negligence, and all I will say is that if you live in a glass house, I would not throw a stone.”
The Skaggs family filed lawsuits Tuesday in part because the statute of limitations expires on Thursday, which is the second anniversary of their death. There will be motions for dismissal and counter-motions. And if the judges in both cases allow the lawsuits to proceed, it could be months or years before someone has to present evidence.
All parties recognize that there is an incentive to avoid discovery that could further embarrass the Angels or the Skaggs family.
The family’s considerations stem from a claim that Skaggs’ death “was caused by Eric Kay … when Kay provided Tyler Skaggs with illegal drugs in Fort Worth, Texas,” as established by the fact that Kay faces Federal charges for distributing fentanyl and causing the death of Skaggs.
However, neither point has been determined.
Kay has pleaded not guilty to the charges and is scheduled for trial in August, but told federal investigators that while he provided Skaggs with medication on a regular basis, he did not believe that he would have given Skaggs the medications he ingested on the day of his death. .
The US Drug Enforcement Administration agent who swore the complaint against Kay said that some pink pills were found in Skaggs’ hotel room, but that he “learned that Kay was not the source” of those pills. The government will have to prove that Kay provided the drugs that Skaggs took that night, and that it was those drugs that caused his death, not the grain alcohol found in the Skaggs system.
The complaint goes on to say that the Angels knew Kay was a longtime opioid addict, and that her boss at the time, former communications director Tim Mead, was informed on more than one occasion. If Mead was responsible, the argument continues, the team was responsible.
“Despite this knowledge, the Angels continued to allow [Kay] had unrestricted access to the players and they even asked him to accompany the team when he traveled for away games, “the complaint reads.
That claim is based in part on a 2019 ESPN article that cited sources saying Kay told investigators that he first mentioned Skaggs’ opioid use to Mead in 2017. The article also cited the mother of Kay, Sandy, saying that she discussed using Skaggs with Mead in 2019, just weeks before the pitcher’s death.
Mead’s attorney issued a statement Tuesday repeating what Mead told ESPN in 2019, that he was never told about Skaggs’ opioid use.
If a criminal or civil case finds that Mead or someone above him knew of opioid abuse on the team and took no action, it would give MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred grounds to fine the team up to $ 5 million. Additionally, MLB could suspend any individual, possibly for life, and fine them up to $ 1 million.
A deal could also expose the Angels to MLB actions.
The lawsuits do not specify how much money the family is seeking, but they are expected to seek compensation for their loss, along with any income Skaggs may have received from a future contract.