The tragic and untimely death of former Los Angeles Angels Pitcher Tyler Skaggs was a blow to the sports world and something not soon forgotten. From the surface, the situation is messy with the Angels under public scrutiny for employing Eric Kay and being unaware of the distribution of opioids throughout the organization to an estimated total of five players, plus Kay himself. This has all culminated in a wrongful death suit from the Skaggs family claiming the Angels were negligent in allowing Kay, who had previously had a history of opioid abuse, to have access to players without proper supervision. This leads us to the latest media headline: Angels Refusing Cooperation in Subpoena. Of course after reading that sort of headline, the immediate reaction is disapproval with the Angels organization. However, the situation is not as it may seem and provides opportunity to dive under the surface of this case.
A subpoena is a court order and in this case they’re ordering the Angels to hand over more information in regards to “any of all documents, records, reports, and information made, commissioned, or obtained by Angels Baseball, LP regarding the distribution of drugs by any Angels Baseball, LP employees or contractors or otherwise within the organization.”. So why are the Angels allegedly not cooperating?
Well to start, the Angels have already been cooperative in this case. An Angels team attorney, John Cayee was quoted saying, “In short, Angels Baseball has always met and conferred in good faith, responded in accordance with agreed upon deadlines (and often well in advance of those deadlines), and produced what was requested. The only documents Angels Baseball has refused to produce are those protected by the attorney-client privilege and work product protections, including those relating to its internal investigation arising out of [Skaggs’] death.” So it’s not as if the Angels have been fighting the investigation this whole time, there are certain documents that the Angels are not legally required to share. Attorney-client privilege keeps all communications between legal attorney and their client private and work product protections means that the opposing attorney’s may not use written or oral materials prepared by or for an attorney in legal preparation. Furthermore, it’s expected procedure to oppose a subpoena of this manner. Federal prosecutors have been aware of the Angels’ investigation since February 2020 and they only recently issued the subpoena in July 2021, so the Angels must be granted time to challenge it.
The rationale of opposing the subpoena is to mitigate any additional liability stemming from the lawsuit from Skaggs family. The lawsuit is against the organization itself for negligence in the situation and the Angels don’t want to be held liable for the actions of a single employee. More than likely, Kay was a bad apple in an otherwise professional organization and should bear the brunt of legal justice. Still, it should be an interesting situation to follow. The recent revelation of five other players who were also allegedly given opioids by Kay are apparently willing to come forward to testify and they should provide valuable insight that the subpoena may not. The drug situation could run deeper than just Kay and if so the Angels could face serious negligence charges in allowing it to develop within their organization. It’s already been proven through text messages and emailed obtained in the investigation that Kay ran his distribution in the Angels' stadium and even offered memorabilia as payment for the drugs. Prosecutors are also trying to prove Kay used Skaggs as a middleman for drug distribution, but that has not come to fruition at the moment5. For now what the Angels are doing is a standard legal procedure and only time will tell how this situation unfolds.
*News and updates about the Tyler Skaggs case was first reported by the LA Times*
(1) Quinn, T.J. “Pitcher Tyler SKAGGS' Family Files Suits against Los Angeles Angels, Former Employees.” ESPN. ESPN Internet Ventures, June 29, 2021. https://www.espn.com/mlb/story/_/id/31731359/pitcher-tyler-skaggs-family-files-suits-angels-former-employees.
(2) Fenno, Nathan. “Prosecutors in Tyler SKAGGS CASE Accuse Angels of Not Complying with Subpoena.” Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles Times, August 24, 2021. https://www.latimes.com/sports/angels/story/2021-08-24/tyler-skaggs-prosecutors-angels-investigation-eric-kay-drugs
(3) Fenno, Nathan. “Prosecutors in Tyler SKAGGS CASE Accuse Angels of Not Complying with Subpoena.”
(4) “Attorney Work Product Privilege.” Legal Information Institute. Legal Information Institute. Accessed August 27, 2021. https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/attorney_work_product_privilege.
(5) Fenno, Nathan. “Prosecutors in Tyler SKAGGS CASE Accuse Angels of Not Complying with Subpoena.”
Evan Mattel is a 1L at Hofstra Law School and can be found on Twitter at @Evan_Mattel21.