New York Mets News

Examining the lawsuit against Jeff Wilpon and the Mets

By Danny Abriano

In a lawsuit filed Wednesday, former Mets Senior VP for ticket sales and services Leigh Castergine accused COO Jeff Wilpon of discrimination and wrongful termination in retaliation for lodging internal complaints.

Later on Wednesday, the Mets released a statement that the allegations were “without merit.”

So, what happens now? And is there a solid chance the case makes it in front of a jury?

Rising Apple spoke with Kevin Clinton, an attorney in the New York area who weighed in on the complaint against Wilpon and the Mets.

After reviewing the complaint, Clinton said that “the timing looks to be absolutely terrible from the Mets’ perspective. Fired two months after leave but yet one month before she got pregnant she got a $50,000 bonus.”

While noting that the two sides will “do the dance for a little while,” Clinton said that the “discovery period will be quick. A year tops in federal (court).”

What most Mets fans want to know is whether or not the case against Wilpon and the Mets actually has a chance to make it in front of a jury. To that question, Clinton said:

"[Anne] Vladeck (Castergine’s counsel) is very aggressive. Not afraid to try a case. Yes I can absolutely see this getting to a jury."

Clinton continued:

"At first blush, plaintiff’s strongest claims look to be her retaliation claims. In order to prove retaliation, she has to prove that she: 1. Engaged in a protected activity i.e. complained about discrimination. 2. Employer had knowledge of complaint. 3. Employer took an adverse action against her under circumstances giving rise to an inference of discrimination. That inference is established by the timing of her complaints, her return from leave and her firing. Retaliation claim looks to survive any pretrial dismissal motion."

Regarding the Mets’ stated reason for dismissing Castergine, Clinton said:

"The stated reason is failure to meet sales goals. Of course she didn’t meet them – she was on leave. If she dropped off from March until her return in June, that drop-off is justified because of her legally protected maternity/pregnancy leave and Mets’ reason for firing is referred to as a ‘pretext for discrimination.’"

So, what’s next?

According to Clinton, the Mets will soon serve an answer to the complaint. They could make a motion to dismiss, but that’s unlikely.

Instead, likely within 30 days of service of the complaint:

"Defense counsel will probably ask for an extension of time, then service of answer…then what’s called a Rule 16 conference will be scheduled. Initial discovery schedule and initial settlement talks are done before either the district judge or the magistrate judge is assigned."

Regarding a potential settlement any time soon, Clinton said:

"The Mets don’t have an immediate trigger to settle even assuming their liability is bad. Damages are minimal as she’s only fired August 26. At the very least I would expect them to engage in initial discovery. A variable to trigger to settle would be if plaintiff received any psychological treatment as result of Wilpon’s alleged acts. That treatment adds value to the case."

This case will be an interesting one to follow in the coming weeks and months, and one that may have ramifications beyond what happens in a court of law.