Jeff Luhnow’s petition against the Houston Astros for breach of contract is now part of the public record in the District Clerks’ records for Harris County. The case has been assigned to Judge Kyle Carter in the 125th District Court of Harris County. You can read the 17 page petition here.
The actual claim by Luhnow is pretty straightforward — there is just one cause of action asserted, a breach of contract claim. Luhnow is alleging that Luhnow was employed by a contract entered into on May 24, 2018, and that while “the Astros purported to terminate him ‘for Cause’ on January 13, 2020”, there was “no basis to terminate Luhnow for cause because none of the reasons to terminate Luhnow for cause under the contract had occurred.” Luhnow alleges he was “deprived . . . of more than $22 million in guaranteed compensation,” as well as a profit interest and other benefits.
Most of the petition is the “Factual Allegations,” where Luhnow sets out his version of events as well as the relevant background. After laying out Luhnow’s success in turning around the Astros, the petition turns to the MLB “investigation” (quotes around investigation being used in the header of that section), noting that sign-signing “has a long and colorful history in baseball” and “does not inherently violate baseball rules.”
The petition goes on to contend that MLB and Astros owner Jim Crane “exchanged a series of proposals” prior to the report on the investigation being released, and claims that Crane, in essence, sold Luhnow and A.J. Hinch down the river in exchange for keeping the 2017 World Series title, having Crane, personally, exonerated, and not having any players get suspended. Luhnow says that “[t]he documents reviewed by the Commissioner provide no evidence that Luhnow knew about any scheme,” and that the text messages in the possession of MLB establish that the plan was concocted and implemented by low-level employees without Luhnow being “aware of or involved in the sign-stealing schemes.”
A couple of other items to be aware of:
1 — as expected, there’s an arbitration clause in Luhnow’s contract, which the petition acknowledges. However, they claim that the clause is “a narrow arbitration clause that does not cover the subject matter of this suit.” Interestingly, the employment contract provides that the Commissioner, or the Commissioner’s designee, would be the arbitrator in the event of a dispute between Luhnow and the Astros. I’m not sure if that’s standard or not. In any case, Luhnow alternatively seeks that in lieu of the Commissioner and his designee, that a “neutral arbitrator” be appointed if the arbitration clause is deemed valid. I’d expect the Astros to move to compel arbitration in the very near future.
2 — while Luhnow has just one claim currently asserted, under the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, claims can be amended and supplemented for a long time after the initial pleading, so this doesn’t mean that Luhnow won’t allege anything else.