Ohio State’s settlement in the closing of the lawsuit filed by former Buckeye linebacker Chris Spielman against the university cost $140,000, but it was only the latest in the expenses from this case.
According to public records obtained by The Lantern, Ohio State has spent $136,436.09 in payments to Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease LLP, the law firm representing the university in court.
The invoices have dates ranging from Sept. 29, 2017, to Aug. 30, 2018, with payment dates between Jan. 19, 2018 and Oct. 12, 2018. Since the lawsuit was not settled until Friday, the final total will likely be more than that $136,436.09 tally.
Spielman sued Ohio State and IMG on July 14, 2017, claiming the two groups used the likeness of Ohio State athletes around Ohio Stadium on the 64 Honda-sponsored banners without permission of the athletes and offering no compensation in return.
Ohio State settled with Spielman for $140,000 in the lawsuit, adding that Spielman will not make any further disparaging comments against the university. Spielman is still in court against International Management Group, a talent management company more commonly referred to as IMG.
Bret Adams, attorney for Spielman, said Spielman will be able to focus more on IMG, which Adams said is at the root of the issue since it was that group that sold the banners to Honda. He noted that the case against IMG has national implications since it sells the names and likenesses of players at other universities as well.
“The hypocrisy is that while IMG represents players, it’s allowing universities to exploit the name and likeness of former players,” Adams said.
The Lantern reached out to attorneys at IMG for comment, but had not heard back at the time of publication.
“It is perplexing knowing Ohio State would spend this kind of money on attorney fees, knowing the money was coming back to the university.” —Bret Adams, attorney for Chris Spielman
The lawsuit was filed as a class-action, with Spielman noting that he was filing it on behalf of former athletes who cannot represent themselves. Spielman had said when the lawsuit was first filed that any money given to him would be returned to the university, and that this case was more to give money to players who can’t afford the legal fees to sue the university.
The joint statement released by Spielman and Ohio State said Spielman will donate all his proceeds to the William White Family Fund for ALS and the Stefanie Spielman Fund for Breast Cancer Research, which are both at Ohio State.
“It is perplexing knowing Ohio State would spend this kind of money on attorney fees, knowing the money was coming back to the university,” Adams said.
Ohio State declined to comment on the legal fees or the statements from Adams.
The university has already had to dig into its pockets to pay for legal fees this year, having spent nearly $1.5 million for the investigation and lawsuits surrounding sexual misconduct allegations of former Ohio State physician Richard Strauss.
Ohio State had to spend money on three different law firms in the Strauss case: Perkins Coie, LLP, the Seattle-based law firm conducting the investigation; Carpenter Lipps & Leland, LLP, which is the legal representative for Ohio State in any lawsuits the university faces; and Porter Wright Morris & Arthur LLP, which oversees Perkins Coie and the investigation.
Perkins Coie received $1,379,966.30, Carpenter Lipps & Leland received $71,129.90 and Porter Wright Morris & Arthur received $30,806.75, with the most recent payment on the invoice listed as having gone to Perkins Coie on Aug. 17.
In July 2014, Jon Waters was fired as Ohio State marching band director for allegedly being aware of a sexualized culture in the band and failing to make any changes. Waters later filed a pair of lawsuits against the university: one claiming he was fired based on his gender and another for defamation. According to court documents, Waters wanted to be rehired as band director and receive at least $1 million in damages.
After Waters’ reverse gender discrimination case was dismissed in August 2016, Waters continued legal fights until voluntarily dismissing both all claims and appeals against the university in January 2017. University spokesman Ben Johnson said in exchange for voluntarily dismissing the claims, Waters did not have to repay the university for the legal fees it spent fighting him in court.
Records obtained by The Lantern indicated Ohio State had spent $1,591,573.25 on legal fees in the pair of lawsuits across 48 different invoices. Ohio State spent $1,417,553.25 in federal court where Waters claimed the reverse sexual discrimination, while it spent only $174,020 in the Court of Claims where Waters claimed defamation. The university did not confirm if the invoices shared with The Lantern were accurate, however, earlier reports from the Columbus Dispatch said Ohio State provided the paper with a list of 48 invoices that added up to nearly $1.6 million.
Adams noted that with all the cases, Ohio State could spend less on legal fees by settling instead. He believes it comes from an inability to admit wrongdoing by the university.
“It’s arrogance. That’s all it is,” Adams said. “It’s never, ‘Let’s find a resolution that’s the right thing to do and be fiscally responsible instead of defending every case,’ because they can’t admit wrongdoing.”