Breach of Contract Lawsuit by Former USC Football Coach

Orlando Breach of Contract Attorney update:

In the Sarkisian vs USC breach of contract lawsuit, USC attorneys have filed a motion to compel arbitration, which is set for hearing in March 2016, alleging that Sarkisian signed an agreement to arbitrate all claims related to the parties’ contract.  Sarikisian’s lawyers have countered by arguing that Sarkisian was “rushed into signing the contract” and did not receive legal advice relating to the arbitration provision.  Arbitration provisions, in which parties to a contract agree that all disputes related to the contract will go to arbitration rather than through the court system, as Orlando breach of contract lawyers know, are generally enforceable.

In fact, most courts intentionally lean in favor of arbitration rather than litigation if it is at all possible to do so given the parties’ contract, of course.  After all, the court system is over-burdened already, so if the parties agree to some other forum to resolve their disputes, that agreement should be enforced.  If USC’s motion is granted, Sarkisian’s lawsuit will be stayed, and the parties will have to pursue their actions via arbitration rather than litigation.  You can read more here about this Orlando breach of contract attorney update and the Sarkisian breach of contract lawsuit.


Here’s the original post: 

Fired Football Coach Sues USC for Breach of Contract

In news of interest to breach of contract lawyers in Orlando and elsewhere, Steve Sarkisian, the former football coach for the USC Trojans, has sued the school for breach of contract after he was fired in October 2015.  Sarkisian was the head football coach at the University of Washington before USC hired him as its head football coach on December 2013, signing him to 5 year contract.  After he coached the 2014 season and 5 games of the 2015 season, USC fired Sarkisian for breach of contract in mid-October 2015, following multiple alleged episodes of him abusing alcohol on the job.  Allegations included showing up for a booster meeting drunk in August 2015 and then showing up for a team meeting drunk in October 2015.  Shortly after the October 2015 incident, the USC athletic director emailed Sarkisian, notifying him that he was fired.  You can read more here about the details on the breach of contract allegations.  After the contract termination, Sarkisian sued USC in Los Angeles, California Superior Court for breach of contract, among other claims contained in a 14 count complaint.  You can follow the link to read the actual breach of contract complaint.

The former coach had two separate contracts with USC: one for his services as head football coach and a second contract for marketing services he provided pursuant to a marketing agreement.  He was paid a starting salary of $2,625,000 per year for coaching (which increased annually).  His total claim on this breach of contract claim is just over $9 million plus certain incentives.  He was also paid $1 million per year for the marketing agreement, with a total sum demanded for this breach of contract complaint of $3.2 million.

Former Coach’s Theory of the Breach of Contract Claim

The former coach’s breach of contract lawsuit alleges two basic theories: that USC never properly terminated the parties’ contract, or in the alternative, if USC did properly terminate the parties’ contract, it failed to pay Sarkisian the liquidated damages due of $11,250,000.  In regard to the improper notice argument, the coach argued that USC did not have “cause” to terminate his contract, and even if it did, the school was required to send him written notice of termination of contract and provide him with a 10 day period to “cure” the breach, which was never done according to the lawsuit.  In regard to the liquidated damages argument, the coach argued that if USC wanted to fire him for “no cause” it could do so, but was required to pay him liquidated damages, of $11,250,000 as set forth in the contract.

Analysis of Breach of Contract Issues

Whether or not USC had “cause” to fire Sarkisian, or fired him “without cause” will be the central issue of the breach of contract litigation, and also plays into the remaining causes of action.  The non-breach of contract lawsuit claims revolves around employment law type claims for improper termination and failure to accommodate his “disability” of alcoholism.  If USC can prove Sarkisian was drinking on the job, it would likely have “cause” to fire him, and would also make it more difficult for the coach to show he was suffering from a disability as opposed to just abusing alcohol on the job.  USC could have a problem with the notice requirements of the parties’ contract even if it did have cause to fire Sarkisian and terminate the parties’ contract, because it was required to provide notice of breach and a ten day “cure” period.  (Whether the purported breach of drinking on the job or alcoholism can be “cured” in 10 days is another question).

The moral of the story here is when something goes wrong in a contractual relationship, consult your contract (and your Orlando breach of contract lawyer) to make sure you thoroughly document the transaction and follow all applicable contractual requirements prior to sending a notice of default or notice of termination in any Orlando breach of contract dispute.

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