I’ve read the federal complaint filed by former WTKA morning host Dave Shand against Michigan AD Bill Martin. The MVictors legal team consulted on the matter over a few beers at Fraser’s Pub in Ann Arbor & here’s the assessment:
One of the factors that makes this case difficult is that Shand’s employment relationship with WTKA presumably was at-will, meaning he could have quit, or WTKA could have fired him, at any time for no reason. There is somewhat of a split in Michigan over whether a former employee can sue another person for interfering with an at-will employment relationship, but recent case law suggests that the at-will nature alone does not invalidate a claim – that is, we have an expectation that our at-will employment relationship with our employer will not be wrongfully undermined by an outsider. More importantly, the at-will nature of the relationship makes it difficult to prove damages and this issue would likely be hotly contested by the parties just to determine whether the case should even go to a jury. Martin would argue that the damages are overly speculative so the case shouldn’t go to a jury, while Shand would have to argue that there is a reasonable basis to compute his damages.
Another point that Martin’s side might argue is that he had a legitimate interest to protect (U of M’s athletic department) and thus did not wrongfully or maliciously interfere with Shand’s relationship with WTKA. This is likely to turn on, among other things, what Martin actually said to WTKA (if anything), what Shand actually said that allegedly drew the ire of Martin, and what U of M’s license agreement with WTKA says. This is further complicated by the First Amendment (free speech) issues and the fact that Martin is an employee of a state institution.
So what does this all mean? There appear to be many questions of fact for a jury to decide, so it’s reasonable to expect that the judge would allow the case to go to a jury instead of dismissing it for failing to state a claim. Yet, a lot of dirt (particularly on U of M) would come to light if this case ever gets to a jury. And that’s where the big IF comes in: most of these cases settle out of court with the parties agreeing to keep the terms of their settlement confidential.
Interesting take from our legal team….now please note that this is not legal advice, just a few thoughts on this case. Another thing to note: some media outlets have reported that Shand is seeking $75,000, he’s actually seeking in excess of $75,000, meaning the specifics are TBD.