On April 5 2018, MMA superstar Conor McGregor made headlines after going on a violent tirade in the loading dock of the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. McGregor was caught on camera throwing a hand truck through a bus window carrying UFC 223 fighters. One of those fighters was Michael Chiesa.
Chiesa claimed the propelled hand truck broke the bus window, causing its handle and glass from the shattered window to strike him, lacerating his face. With that, Chiesa filed suit in New York against McGregor and McGregor Sports and Entertainment, LLC (“MSE”) in 2018. Chiesa alleged, among other causes of action: assault, battery, and negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
McGregor and MSE (“defendants”) moved to dismiss certain claims filed by Chiesa (“plaintiff”) for failure to state a cause of action and for lack of personal jurisdiction against MSE. In an order dated September 10, 2019, the Supreme Court in Kings County in New York dismissed plaintiff’s second, third and sixth causes of action.
According to his complaint, Chiesa’s second cause of action was negligence. The lower court dismissed this claim, holding that defendant’s actions were intentional, and thus the proper cause of action to recover is battery, not negligence. The 2nd Department reviewed this decision after Chiesa appealed and released its decision today. The Court upheld dismissal of the negligence claim, holding that it cannot stem from intentional activity.
Chiesa’s third cause of action was for negligent infliction of emotional distress. The Second Department upheld the lower court’s dismissal of this claim as well, holding that “[a] negligent infliction of emotional distress cause of action must fail where, as here, no allegations of negligence appear in the pleadings.” The negligence claim was dismissed, as discussed above.
However, the Court took a different route on Chiesa’s sixth cause of action. This claim was for intentional infliction of emotional distress. Today, the 2nd Department reversed the lower court’s decision to dismiss this cause of action, bringing it back to life.
The Court held, “[c]ontrary to the defendants’ contention, the complaint sufficiently alleged that McGregor engaged in conduct ‘so outrageous in character, and so extreme in degree, as to go beyond all possible bounds of decency, and to be regarded as atrocious, and utterly intolerable in a civilized community.’” “Besides the alleged throwing of the hand truck that is the basis of the plaintiff's assault and battery causes of action, the plaintiff also alleges that McGregor threw other objects at the bus, attempted to board the bus, prevented the bus from moving, kicked the bus, and yelled threats and expletives.”
Finally, the Court held that the allegations made in the complaint are sufficient to support personal jurisdiction against MSE and that the defendant’s motion to dismiss should have been denied as to this issue. Personal jurisdiction refers to a court’s power to hear claims over a particular party, rather than a court’s power to hear a claim itself.
The 2nd Department held that there were sufficient contacts for personal jurisdiction because McGregor acted for the benefit and on behalf of MSE. “Overall, the plaintiff’s allegations that McGregor’s tortious conduct was intended to promote and bring publicity for a potential fight between McGregor and Nurmagomedov, and that MSE was involved in the promotion/sponsorship of the fight between McGregor and Nurmagomedov at UFC 229, was sufficient to allege, prima facie, that McGregor’s conduct was for the benefit of MSE.” Therefore, defendant’s activity in the state of New York is imputed to MSE, permitting a New York court to preside over claims against MSE.
The Court continued, “[a]dditionally, the plaintiff's allegation that MSE procured and paid for the use of an aircraft so that McGregor could confront Nurmagomedov at UFC 223 Media Day was sufficient to show, prima facie, that MSE exercised control over McGregor. These allegations were sufficient to demonstrate, prima facie, that MSE was subject to the personal jurisdiction of the court.”
Jason Morrin is a law clerk (pending admission to the NY Bar) at Zumpano, Patricios & Popok LLP in New York, a firm dedicated to litigation and business counseling including in the areas of sports, gaming and entertainment. He graduated cum laude from Hofstra Law School where he was president of the Sports and Entertainment Law Society. His writing for Conduct Detrimental has been cited by ESPN, The New York Post, USA Today, and more. He is also a contributor to the top-rated LEGAL AF news podcast on the Meidas Media Network.