Tiger Woods is providing a feast of legal issues as he swiftly morphs from choir boy to bad boy. And in the process he opens up a veritable bar exam full of questions.
Since at least half of lawyering is first identifying the potential problems, let’s take a peak inside the cans of worms he opened. Your familiarity with the facts is presumed. But since those facts are likely to change within minutes — since the one thing the media loves more than creating heroes is destroying them, and any story will do for Tiger at the moment — the current state of affairs is the media claiming extra-marital affairs with 6-10 women. That number changes depending on who is keeping the scorecard, but you can bet they’re all are hoping for a round of 18.
The list below is long on the criminal, matrimonial/custody and contract areas of the law, but I also see a smattering of First Amendment, intellectual property, sports and ethics.
Without further ado, and assuming many rumors as true, when some likely aren’t:
- Domestic violence possibility;
- Drug / alcohol related driving accident;
- Right to silence in discussion with police (see: Tainting Tiger @ Simple Justice);
- Drug addiction (can be an issue both for endorsements and potentially for playing golf with drugs in his system — I’m just issue spotting, I don’t know what golf’s drug rules are):
- Possible lost endorsements (related either to drugs or for conduct with the women). Gatorade was the first to drop him:
- HIPAA violations for whoever disclosed he had overdose written on his chart when he went to the hospital after the accident;
- Validity of pre-nuptial agreement (as well as disposition of real/personal property) given the unexpected conduct of Woods;
- Alienation of affection (still exists in some states, where did Tiger have his affairs? And conflict of laws might go with that). Can wounded spouse Elin Nordegren sue the women Tiger was with, not because she needs the money, but to make it unprofitable for them to sell stories to the press? (see: Should There Be Liability for Intentional Interference With Marriage? @ Lead Counsel Corner);
- Custody of two children;
- Custody of children if wife hauls the kids to Sweden (treaties?);
- Taxation – While divorce settlements aren’t generally taxable, what if a confidentiality agreement is attached to it? That happened in Amos v. Commissioner with a personal injury claim against Dennis Rodman. (And is Woods going to re-invent himself as golf’s Dennis Rodman?);
- Ethics, regarding lawfirms that may have leaked details of pre-nuptial agreement and/or discussions regarding modification;
- First Amendment / Defamation – For any woman the press falsely asserted was having an affair with Tiger, but wasn’t. Is she a public person for whom an actual malice standard applies, or a private one with a different standard? The New York Times Room For Debate Blog batted around the issues of privacy and who is, and is not, a public person.
- Tiger purchasing the exclusive rights to the stories of women he has been with (a/k/a buying silence, see: JDJournal):
- For Tiger’s Harem you can add contracts to sell stories to others, intellectual property rights regarding those stories (and photos) and the books/movies that are no doubt already being devised; and
- Can I trademark One Man Bar Exam? And how do I put that little TM thingie in?
While Hollywood is no doubt ramping up for Tiger Woods: The Movie, I’m busy wondering about Tiger Woods: The Bar Exam.
This man could single handedly stop the bleeding of jobs from the legal sector and at the same time give law profs and bar examiners plenty to work with.
OK, so without making any jokes about his putter, or about Tiger’s Wood, what legal issues have I missed?
(Photoshopped image of “Tiger Rodman” by Dan Turkewitz)
Links to this post:
Tiger Woods and Exams?!
Have you heard enough about Tiger Woods? Well, maybe you should keep listening. Eric Turkewitz of the New York Personal Injury Law Blog writes that Tiger Woods is a “One Man Bar Exam” because of the breadth of his legal difficulty. …posted by Jenny Rempel @ December 10, 2009 10:44 AM
Can’t overlook the insurance coverage issues:
-> potential application of the homeowner policy’s special limit for loss of Woods’ (previously more) valuable (prenuptial) papers;
-> applicability of the homeowner policy’s exclusion of liability coverage for an insured who causes bodily injury to another insured;
-> breach of the personal auto policy’s duties truthfully to report a loss and cooperate in the insurer’s investigation, negating liability coverage for property damage to the fire hydrant, tree, etc.;
-> whether damage to the Escalade can be considered caused by other than “collision” due to a civil commotion;
-> intentionally caused damage, at least in part, to the Escalade, limiting or negating physical damage coverage for it under the personal auto policy; and
-> unresolved questions regarding the number of occurrences under Woods… or his personal umbrella policy.
Speculative/Errornous reports from media, possible to sue?
– Elin hit Tiger with golf club, false
– Elin tried to commit suicide, false
Her mother got food poisoned.
You could also add in the issue of spousal exclusion, if it exists, if Tiger were to make a claim of any kind and assert his wife was a factor in causing the accident.
But I would handicap the chances of such a claim as somewhere between zero and when pigs fly.
The One Man Bar Exam is equal parts and hilarious and terrifying, since I am a law student who has yet to pass the bar…
I would likely enjoy that exam. But that is probably because I spent too much time golfing rather than actually studying for exams (bar or otherwise)
/hangs head in shame
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