by Richard W. Millar, Jr.
If I, with my limited knowledge—which results from limited interest—of sports figures, has heard of someone, that someone is truly well-known. Oscar de la Hoya is an example. I know he is a boxer. What I didn’t know, at least until now, is that he is allegedly, to use the vernacular of romantic bodice-ripping novels, somewhat of a swordsman.
He is not the first male sports celebrity to be sued by a woman, nor, I can reasonably forecast, will he be the last. And, as usual, the subject is sex. (If it weren’t, I probably would not be writing about it, but I digress.)
The plaintiff is one Angelica Cecora, with whom I hasten to say I am unacquainted, and she sued in New York for battery, assault, false imprisonment, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. According to the defense arguments, she is, to use a French phrase over the more prosaic one in the New York Supreme Court opinion, a madame de la nuit.
This was not a stealth filing. An unsigned version of the complaint was “leaked” to the New York Post prior to filing. There were “salacious descriptions of the defendant in the complaint.” And, of course, there were the seemingly obligatory press conferences and interviews fanning the fanfare, so to speak. The prayer sought a “minimum” of $5,000,000 in compensatory damages, seemingly a lot for a night’s endeavors, but perhaps she intended to split the booty with her “roommate,” who had later joined the festivities as the “trois” in a ménage à trois.
The defense made a motion to dismiss for failure to state a cause of action, akin to our demurrer. The hearing turned into another media event when the plaintiff and her attorney, Robert Anthony Evans, Jr.—I mention his name lest you suspect someone else—held a press conference literally on the courthouse steps “making an issue of the defendant’s absence from the Court on the date of oral argument, knowing it is common practice in civil cases for only attorneys to appear.”
The only source of the facts was, as you would expect, the complaint. It said that Ms. Cecora went to Mr. de la Hoya’s hotel at 6:00 p.m. at his request, had dinner, and stayed in his suite until 12:45 p.m. the next day. They had after-dinner activities, and after a while, Ms. Cecora “summoned her roommate to join them at [Mr. de la Hoya’s] request.” At my age, I get tired just thinking about it, but apparently more activities ensued. After both women went to sleep, Ms. Cecora “allegedly rebuffed four attempts by defendant to resume sexual contact with her.”
She awoke about 10:30 a.m. Mr. de la Hoya was nowhere to be seen, so she decided to use the hotel spa, which he “allegedly gave her permission to charge to his hotel room.”
When she returned to the suite, hotel “personnel” told her to leave. Mr. de la Hoya, it seems, had checked out at 8:30 that morning “without authorizing any other charges to his room.” When she and her roommate, who apparently was not awake enough to go to the spa, were leaving at about 12:45 p.m., security escorted them from the hotel and informed Ms. Cecora that she would be responsible for the spa charges. (I suspect that may be the true genesis of the complaint, but what do I know?)
In any event, the court found that the alleged battery, the supposed four attempts to resume sexual adventures, was, even after indulging every favorable inference, in light of the circumstances, insufficient to state a cause of action for battery. Her claim of “imminent apprehension of harmful contact” was “belied . . . by her voluntarily waiting for Defendant to return” when she awoke to find him gone, rather than leaving the hotel at that point.
I am not sure what the infliction of emotional distress was based on, but the Court found that “even ignoring her own voluntary role in the events,” the conduct did not approach “the level of outrageousness . . . necessary for liability.”
The Court also ordered sanctions against the plaintiff and her attorney for asserting at least two frivolous claims and, in the case of the lawyer, for conduct that “crossed the line from zealous advocacy” citing to the press conferences and media hoopla. Each was sanctioned $500 to compensate “the defendant for his reasonable attorney’s fees and costs incurred.” Somehow, I suspect that Mr. de la Hoya’s attorney’s fees were way north of $1,000, but sometimes you take what you can get.
Ms. Cecora also sought to disqualify Mr. de la Hoya’s counsel on the ground that she intended to call him as a witness since he had, in her words, sent her money in an envelope to settle her claims. It probably didn’t help that she kept the money. The court ruled that the settlement negotiations were inadmissible, she could not call him as a witness for that purpose, and that the disqualification was denied.
Since this was on motion without a trial, I would have to award Mr. de la Hoya with a TKO. That said, there is a lesson to be learned here:
If you are going to request ladies to join you for a long night in your hotel room, you had best throw in at least a half day in the spa.
Richard W. Millar, Jr. is a member of the firm of Millar, Hodges & Bemis in Newport Beach. He can be reached at email@example.com.