Innings for Baseball Litigation
Christopher J. Armstrong
Popov went to a ballgame, caught a ball, lost the ball, filed a
lawsuit, lost the ball again, and at the end of the game may end
up losing his shirt.
dispute began in October 2001 when baseball star Barry Bonds hit
his record-setting 73rd homerun. The feat marked a major
league record for single-season homeruns, and is a moment which
will be enshrined in baseball history.
Alex Popov originally caught the homerun ball, and then lost it
in a melee of fans. Patrick Hayashi ended up with the prized souvenir
and both men ended up in a lawsuit over rights to the baseball.
Attorney Martin Triano represented Popov in the suit, arguing that
the Popov was the true owner of the baseball and should be entitled
to keep it. Hayashi argued alternatively that, as the first fan
to be able to get the ball and hold on to it, the ball should be
his. The case could have come from any law school property exam
as a classic case of finders-versus-keepers.
a decision that amounted to a jurisprudential shrugging of the shoulders,
the judge sidestepped the question and ordered Popov and Hayashi
to sell the baseball and split the proceeds equally. The souvenir
baseball brought $450,000 at auction, half of which $225,000
went to each of the two men.
Popovs adventures in the courtroom were far from over. His
$225,000 windfall came up short last month when his attorney filed
suit, claiming that Popov owed him $473,500 in legal fees and expenses.
of the new lawsuit, a California judge has ordered Popovs
$225,000 share of the sale to be put in escrow awaiting a July 17
hearing over Trianos claims. Popovs original contract
with Triano required the men to use a private arbitrator to settle
any disputes over legal fees, and the hearing will decide whether
that provision will be enforced.
Triano was quoted in the San Francisco Chronicle as saying
"Alex had nothing going into this case. We paved new legal
ground and got him half the ball
Alex chose not to take it
up on appeal."
for his reaction to the case, Popov said "Youll have
to read the book when I write it."
last chapter in this dispute is far from written, as Popov is reportedly
preparing a suit against Triano. Popov said "Ive talked
to (new) legal counsel that says he (Triano) owes me the full value
of the baseball because he lost it (through his representation at
can only hope that Mr. Popov has the good sense to negotiate legal
fees for his new lawsuit in advance.
J. Armstrong is a law student at the Catholic University of America
Columbus School of Law and is interning at the Center for Individual
Freedom this summer.
July 10, 2003]
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