New Orleans Pelicans’ forward Zion Williamson picked up a legal win this week when a federal judge in North Carolina granted him partial judgment in his lawsuit against a former marketing agent who sued Williamson for $100 million in damages claiming breach of contract, according to ESPN’s Mark Schlabach.
U.S. District Court Judge Loretta C. Biggs voided Williamson’s marketing agreement with Gina Ford and Prime Sports Marketing because it didn’t meet the requirements of North Carolina’s Uniform Athlete Agents Act in a ruling handed down on Wednesday.
Biggs ruled that Williamson was a student-athlete at Duke when he engaged with Ford’s company; he had not been declared permanently ineligible by the NCAA; Ford was not a certified agent in North Carolina; the agreement did not include the required warnings under the law.
Additionally, Biggs ruled that Williamson and his family communicated to Ford that they were terminating and voiding the contract.
“Having considered the pleadings, viewed in the light most favorable to Defendants and drawing all reasonable inferences in Defendants’ favor, the Court concludes that Plaintiff is entitled to judgment as a matter of law on the issue of whether the Agreement is void,” Biggs wrote in her ruling.
“Defendants’ affirmative defenses and counterclaims that Plaintiff was not a student-athlete do not rely on material allegations of fact, rather a conclusion of law that flies in the face of their own pleadings as well as attachments to their pleadings,” Biggs wrote. “Although Defendants assert that their pleadings make clear that they contest Plaintiff’s status as a student-athlete at the time that the Agreement was entered, this assertion is in direct conflict with their admission that Plaintiff was actively engaging in an intercollegiate sport — namely, men’s basketball — which is one of the ways the UAAA provides that an individual can be deemed a student-athlete. The Court is not required to assume the truth of legal allegations or conclusions because they are packaged in the form of factual allegations.”
“We are grateful that the Court invalidated the contract based on the merits of the case, in line with the clear, relevant requirements under North Carolina law,” Jeffrey S. Klein, Williamson’s attorney, said in a statement. “The Court confirmed that actual facts matter, which hopefully will serve as a cautionary tale for unscrupulous agents looking to prey on student athletes.”