Updated: Aug 11
The rise in popularity of the sport of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) has allowed its fighters the opportunity to participate in mainstream ventures. However, as former UFC fighter Cat Zingano can attest, with more opportunities comes more legal issues. Cat Zingano is suing the popular actress, Halle Berry for “getting snubbed” of a movie role she was promised. (Halle Berry Sued By Former UFC Fighter Cat Zingano Over Movie Role (tmz.com)). According to the lawsuit TMZ obtained, Zingano met with Berry in July 2019 about a movie she was directing named “Bruised.” Berry told Zingano she was perfect for a role and that she should keep her schedule clear because filming for the movie was looming. In accordance with keeping her schedule clear, Zingano turned down a fight from the UFC after being advised by Berry of the liability concerns the movies insurers had for her potential participation. This tough decision resulted in a negative sum game for Zingano. She now is fired from the UFC and no longer can fulfil her role in the movie Berry promised because according to Berry, the movie requires only UFC fighter to be filmed.
In contract law, a binding contract needs what’s called “consideration” to be legally enforceable. This means that the party making an offer and the party accepting the offer both must be exchanging something of value i.e. consideration (RESTATEMENT (SECOND) OF (fbcoverup.com)). Berry was offering Zingano a role in a movie but Zingano did not accept the contract with something of value in return. However, this is not the end of the legal story and Zingano can still recover damages with something called promissory estoppel.
Sometimes, a party has not provided sufficient consideration to create a legal contract but has relied on an offer to the extent that they could still sue for damages. There is no contract created but a party’s reliance on an offer has created a legal obligation. This is where promissory estoppel comes into play (RESTATEMENT (SECOND) OF (fbcoverup.com)). For a party to successfully sue for damages under promissory estoppel, they must satisfy three elements. The party must prove (1) she was promised something by a party that that party thought would induce her to do or not do something, (2) she relied on that promise, and (3) enforcement is necessary to avoid injustice.
Cat Zingano’s legal team has a legitimate case to prove all three elements of promissory estoppel. First, Zingano was promised by Berry that she would have a role in an upcoming movie featuring fighters. Berry even advised Zingano to reject a fight offer from the UFC so she could be in the movie. Second, Zingano relied on Berry’s promise and advisement and was fired as by the UFC. She forbode making money in a fight in reliance that she would be a star in a movie. This reliance resulted in her firing and now no role in a movie. Lastly, Zingano’s team can definitely argue that enforcement is necessary to avoid injustice. Berry promised Zingano a role in a movie and reneged on her promise. Even though Zingano did not technically accept the contract, she relied on Berry’s promise to her detriment. Berry had the opportunity to film a movie with a UFC fighter like she required. Zingano met this requirement, took the steps Berry required in reliance of this promise, and was ready for action. With all this in account, it only makes sense for a court to remedy this injustice by awarding damages.