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Sports-Administration Company Released from Lawsuit over Hockey Dispute

Case Study

Sports-Administration Company Released from Lawsuit over Hockey Dispute

March 16, 2020

Disputes between athletes and referees are common, but this one played out in an uncommon arena: a court of law.

In January 2017, a Buffalo men’s hockey league player sued an organization that provides referees for hockey leagues and the sports-administration company that runs the league, alleging he was seriously injured when the referee suddenly grabbed him and threw him to the ice after an opposing player slashed him during a June 2016 game. But the referee, who by day is a project manager at a construction company, saw it differently. He and the game’s other referee testified that after the plaintiff was slashed―a hockey term meaning one player swung a stick at another―the two officials called a penalty on the offending player and warned the one he slashed not to go after him. The slashed player made a beeline toward the other player, however, and instigated a fight, which the referees broke up. Both referees testified that neither ever threw the plaintiff to the ice.

Now, after six depositions, the suit as it involves the sports-administration company that operates the league has been discontinued―and for a reason that league operators can take to heart: Whose version was accurate didn’t matter in the end. The company doesn’t train, employ, or control the referees who call league games and therefore is not responsible for protecting players from them. So the plaintiff’s attorneys are discontinuing their suit against the company.

The outcome is a victory for the company’s attorney in the case, Goldberg Segalla partner Kenneth A. Patricia, who brought a motion for summary judgment seeking dismissal of the case against his client that led to the discontinuance. It was after two adjournments of that motion and Ken’s refusal to agree to a third that the plaintiff’s attorneys discontinued the suit against the company, “on the merits and with prejudice.”


The firm’s coast-to-coast Sports and Entertainment team understands the issues unique to these interconnected industries. Its attorneys assist entertainment studios, global media companies, major league sports franchises, and related entities by developing comprehensive litigation strategies for claims brought by current and former employees, advising on risks ranging from cybersecurity to intellectual property, and providing counsel on enterprise-level and industry-wide risk management.