January 21, 2021
On January 20, 2021, Weil secured an important victory for NBA basketball player Zion Williamson in a federal lawsuit brought against his former agency, Prime Sports Marketing (PSM), and its founder Gina Ford relating to a marketing agreement he signed with PSM before entering the NBA. Judge Loretta Biggs of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina granted Mr. Williamson’s motion for partial judgment on the pleadings, voiding the agreement and underlying contract under which PSM is seeking in excess of $100 million in damages in a separate litigation in Florida state court.
In the court’s 20-page memorandum and order, it first turned to PSM’s motion to supplement its responsive briefing on Mr. Williamson’s motion for partial judgment on the pleadings. Agreeing with Weil’s arguments, the court held that the information PSM sought to introduce – purported evidence that Mr. Williamson was not a student-athlete at the time he entered into an agreement with PSM – was an illegitimate attempt at a “backdoor amendment to their pleadings” with affidavits and exhibits whose authenticity was in question.
The court then turned to Mr. Williamson’s motion for partial judgment on the pleadings on his first claim, for a declaration by the court that the agreement is invalid under North Carolina’s Uniform Athlete Agent Act (UAAA).
Across the board, the court agreed with Weil’s supporting arguments, finding that it is undisputed that Mr. Williamson was a student-athlete at the time he entered into the contract with PSM, that he was not otherwise determined to be permanently ineligible by any oversight body, that PSM was not a properly registered sports agent under North Carolina law, and that PSM did not furnish Mr. Williamson with a contract that contained statutorily required warnings about the consequences of engaging an agent.
As a result of these factual determinations, under the clear language of the UAAA, the court voided the agreement and underlying contract. This deals a major blow to PSM’s $100 million breach of contract claim brought against Mr. Williamson in Florida state court after Mr. Williamson’s federal case had been filed. In that case, in December 2020, on appeal Weil won the reversal of the Florida trial court’s decision denying Mr. Williamson’s motion to dismiss. Please read more about that victory here.
The Weil team, which was led by Employment Litigation partner Jeffrey S. Klein, includes Appellate Co-Head Zack Tripp, Complex Commercial Litigation Co-Head Edward Soto, counsel Pravin R. Patel and Corey D. Berman, and associates Robert B. Niles-Weed, Lauren E. Richards and Zach Schreiber.