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L.A. Angels Sued by Family of Tyler Skaggs Over Opioid Death (1)

June 30, 2021, 3:08 PMUpdated: June 30, 2021, 3:56 PM

The Los Angeles Angels baseball organization and former director of communications for the team Eric Kay were hit with negligence claims by the family of pitcher Tyler Skaggs over his death from an overdose of opioids Kay allegedly gave him.

The Angels knew or should have known that Kay was supplying illicit drugs to Skaggs and at least five other Angels players, the family alleges in suits filed Tuesday in the California Superior Court for the County of Los Angeles, where the team is located, and in the District Court of Tarrant County, Texas, where Skaggs was found dead in his hotel room on July 1, 2019.

The complaints also allege that Kay told federal agents that his supervisor, Tim Mead, knew he was dealing drugs but took no action to stop it.

The organization had “a toxic environment that pressured players to play through the pain,” the complaints allege.

“Despite knowing that players are seeking to maximize performance and knowing about the risk that MLB players face from addictive pain medications, the Angels, with their toxic culture, created the perfect storm,” the family alleges.

The Angels knew that Kay had a long history of drug abuse, that he had gone to rehab several times during his employment with the Angels, and that he had overdosed at least once, the family alleges.

The organization nevertheless allowed Kay access to players who were trying to play through pains and injuries, the complaints allege.

Kay was indicted in federal court in October 2020 for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance and distribution of a controlled substance resulting in death and serious bodily injury.

The indictment alleges Kay knowingly and intentionally distributed fentanyl and “the use of said substance resulted in” Skaggs’ death.

A spokesperson for the Angels said the suits “are entirely without merit and the allegations are baseless and irresponsible.”

“The Angels Organization strongly disagrees with the claims made by the Skaggs family and we will vigorously defend these lawsuits in court,” spokesperson Marie Garvey said in a statement.

“In 2019, Angels Baseball hired a former federal prosecutor to conduct an independent investigation to comprehensively understand the circumstances that led to Tyler’s tragic death. The investigation confirmed that the organization did not know that Tyler was using opioids, nor was anyone in management aware or informed of any employee providing opioids to any player,” Garvey said.

Causes of Action: Wrongful death-negligence against the Angels, Kay and Tim Mead; wrongful death-negligent hiring, retention, and supervision against the Angels; gross negligence.

Relief: Damages, attorneys’ fees and costs.

Attorneys: Rusty Hardin & Associates LLP and Weinreb Law Group represent the family.

The cases are Hetman v. Angels Baseball LP, Tex. Dist. Ct., 6/29/21; Skaggs v. Angels Baseball LP, Cal. Super. Ct., 6/29/21.

(Updated to add comment from Angels organization)

To contact the reporter on this story: Peter Hayes in Washington at PHayes@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rob Tricchinelli at rtricchinelli@bloomberglaw.com; Nicholas Datlowe at ndatlowe@bloomberglaw.com

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