On Friday, Judge Rakoff dismissed a class action complaint in which a fantasy sports contestant alleged that Major League Baseball’s recent cheating scandals fatally compromised the fairness of fantasy contests promoted by the league. (Click here for previous coverage.) Although the conduct “broke the hearts of all true baseball fans,” Judge Rakoff held that the league did not owe fantasy baseball participants any duty of disclosure or care that could support claims for fraud or negligence, and that the plaintiff’s consumer protection and unjust enrichment claims were “too attenuated to support liability.” The opinion begins:
A sport that celebrates “stealing,” even if only of a base, may not provide the perfect encouragement to scrupulous play. Nor can it be denied that an overweening desire to win may sometimes lead our heroes to employ forbidden substances on their (spit) balls, their (corked) bats, or even their (steroid-consuming) selves. But as Frank Sinatra famously said to Grace Kelly (in the 1956 movie musical High Society), “there are rules about such things.”
One of these rules forbids the use of electronic devices in aid of the players’ inevitable efforts to steal the opposing catcher’s signs. In 2017 and thereafter, the Houston Astros, and somewhat less blatantly the Boston Red Sox, shamelessly broke that rule, and thereby broke the hearts of all true baseball fans. But did the initial efforts of those teams, and supposedly of Major League Baseball itself, to conceal these foul deeds from the simple sports bettors who wagered on fantasy baseball create a cognizable legal claim? On the allegations here made, the answer is no.