(Photo: David Lee.)
A Tarrant County judge ordered businessman Fred “Britt” Britton to pay $2,924,669 to the Texas Collegiate Baseball League (TCBL) after a jury found that Britton participated in a boycott of the summer wooden-bat baseball league. Britton was an owner of the Colleyville Lonestars.
In a final judgment signed on June 6, 67th District Judge Donald Cosby ordered Britton to pay the TCBL: $2,610,000, which is three times the damages the jury awarded the TCBL; $74,669 in costs; and $240,000 in attorney fees, which is three times the attorney fees the jury awarded.
On May 2, a jury in Cosby’s court found that Britton participated in a group boycott of the TCBL and did so flagrantly but not willfully. The jury awarded the league $870,000 in compensatory damages.
In the judgment, Cosby entered judgment on the verdict but also added a total of $47,000 in attorney fees if Britton appeals the judgment.
Michael Hindman, of Rolle, Breeland, Ryan, Landau, Wingler & Hindman of Dallas, who represents Britton, did not immediately return telephone messages seeking comment. A telephone number obtained online for Britton was not answered.
On May 20 Britton filed a motion seeking a judgment notwithstanding the verdict, alleging that the TCBL “failed to produce any evidence at trial that the alleged conduct of the defendants caused an antitrust injury,” failed to present evidence of the relevant market, failed to present evidence that the defendants had market power, and presented no evidence that the alleged conduct of the defendants had any anticompetitive effects.
In a June 4 response, the TCBL asked Cosby to deny the request for the JNOV on the ground that the judge correctly had applied the law and the verdict was supported by evidence.
“The motion is nothing more than an attempt to confuse legal standards, disregard the court’s charge and the jury’s verdict, and disregard the evidence from the trial, all in one fell swoop,” the league argued in the motion.
On June 6, Cosby denied the motion.
Tim Cleveland, an attorney for the TCBL, said the jury was attentive.
“The trial went well, in that the jury found there was a group boycott and found the conduct was flagrant,” said Cleveland, an associate with Weisbart Springer Hayes in Austin who tried the suit with partner Geoffrey Weisbart.
“This was a big deal for us. This validates what we wanted to do,” said Gerald Haddock, president of The Haddock Foundation, majority owner of the TCBL. He is a former part-owner and general counsel of the Texas Rangers.
The judgment comes seven years after the TCBL filed Texas Collegiate Baseball League v. Jim Leslie in Tarrant County state district court. In the fourth amended petition, filed on Aug. 20, 2012, the league alleged that seven teams and their principals banded together to engage in an illegal group boycott in violation of Texas Business & Commerce Code §15.05. The defendants denied the allegations.
By the time the suit went to trial in May, the TCBL had settled with all defendants except Britton. Cleveland and Haddock said the terms of the settlements are confidential. Leslie, also identified as James C. Leslie of Dallas in the petition, did not immediately return a telephone message. Neither did his attorney, Talmage Boston, a shareholder in Winstead in Dallas.
Haddock, a Fort Worth lawyer and businessman, said his foundation owns the rights to the TCBL name and concept. After the seven teams left the league in 2007, he licensed that name and concept in 2008 to owners of several other teams to operate the league.
Currently six teams play in the league.
Haddock said he plans to use proceeds of the litigation to support the league and promote baseball in Texas through youth baseball camps.