When Conor McGregor decided to assault a bus prior to UFC 223, he definitely wasn’t thinking about the consequences. But after being arrested and receiving a reduced sentence in a Brooklyn court, his legal woes are not over.
After news broke out that UFC lightweight Michael Chiesa was taking legal action to sue the former featherweight and lightweight champion, a lot of speculation resumed as to how this would be approached. Exactly how would a legal case be formulated considering that he took a fight after the incident and before filing suit?
Well, we’ll try to take a stab at it. Once again, we’ve enlisted the help of attorney and host of the Fight Lawyer podcast Dmitriy Shakhnevich to engage in healthy speculation as to how this could potentially play out.
Victor Rodriguez: A lot of people are blaming Michael Chiesa for taking another fight after the incident but before the lawsuit. Apparently, a lot of people feel that this may hurt his case or his ability to seek more compensation from damages than what he could have previously. Do you think there’s any merit to that?
Dmitriy Shakhnevich: There’s merit. It’s what they call a credibility issue, right? So if this case were to go to trial — which it can’t — if it were to go to trial, then Chiesa would have to testify as to how hurt he was and then Conor’s lawyers would have to question him and kind of pick at him, and that would be one of the points of cross-examination, right? It’s like, “Well, he fought, so he couldn’t have been that hurt“, and then there’d be expert testimony to say “Oh well, you know, he could be hurt, the injuries weren’t entirely healed“, things of that nature. But that being said, Conor allocuted his guilt — he plead guilty in open court. This case is an open and shut case. So it’s not like, that would matter generally. But in a case like this, it’s not gonna be a thing.
VR: Based on your answer, it seems to imply that you do believe he does have a case. Just how good of a case does he have, then?
DS: This is essentially what they call a personal injury case. Each personal injury case is divided into two different elements, generally speaking. There’s liability, and there’s damages. Liability is whether or not the defendant did something wrong. Damages is what did he/she do and how severe was it? So the liability issue here is open and shut. There’s been a guilty plea in a criminal case.
VR: Oh, yeah. He did that stuff.
DS: Yeah, exactly. And it’s not even that he did it, but that he allocuted to it so he has no defense. In civil cases there’s a deposition. There was no deposition in the criminal case, and the deposition is under oath. He admitted to guilt in open court, so there’s no way he can sit for a deposition and say “No, I didn’t do this“. And that would be silly anyway in light of the video evidence and other things like that. The case on its merits is open and shut. In terms of damages, that’s where you get a little bit into the gray area. This case, generally speaking if this was a normal case, the damages aren’t terribly severe. There were no deaths, there were no organ failures, there are no lost bones, there’s no dismemberment, no surgeries from what I understand. It’s a case where I think he got stitches. The pain and suffering for stitches is not terribly high. Generally it would not crack six figures. Combined with the lost wages and the loss of opportunity and other things, if this were a normal case not involving people such as this (celebrities/professional fighters), it would go away for less than six figures, in my opinion. Maybe in the low six figures. But because this is Conor McGregor, who wants get rid of this and really can’t defend the case, it’ll probably settle for a little bit more just because they could really drag him through the mud and they want to get rid of this case.
VR: You touched on something important here: there was no invasive procedure or surgery, anything along those lines. Nothing that could have caused any permanent or long-term injury. Considering this, you’re estimating there’s a good chance of success, even if it isn’t the millions that some fans had hoped it to be when this first happened. If you remember the day of the incident, a lot of fans on the internet were like “Oh, those dudes are gonna fleece him“.
DS: Nah, I mean, look – you gotta understand, if everybody sues — Chiesa, Rose, the other people that were there, I suppose you could combine all those things. Barclay’s (Center) could have sued him because he damaged property. If you take it to its natural conclusion, yeah, it could have gotten very high into the six figures. If it’s just Chiesa’s case, it won’t crack the high six figures. That’s my estimation.
VR: You touched on another very important item: the loss of earning potential. Apparently there seems to be an argument that Chiesa and/or his legal team want to make this case that with a win over Pettis, Chiesa could have been knocking on the door of a title shot, which would have clearly netted him more money. Now, we don’t need to get into the weeds regarding the fickle nature of the ranking system and how that operates or how arbitrary the process is to get a title shot, how random that can sometimes be…
VR: Do you think there’s any merit on that end, or perhaps any possibility that they can convince the court that this is in fact a very real thing?
DS: I don’t think it’ll get anywhere near a courtroom. I think the case will get settled quickly. If it were to go to trial where all of these things would get flushed out, they have to prove what they call causation. It’s an element in any personal injury case to prove that the conduct caused the loss. And if that’s what you’re alleging, it’s gonna be very tough, because even if you get — I suppose you could get an “MMA expert”, whomever that person may be in this particular case — to testify that if he would have fought, if he would have won, or if he would have lost, or won in a certain way, to make that case on the merits before a jury. It’s tough. But again, this case, they’re going to allege everything. That’s what every responsible plaintiff’s lawyer does. It’s to appease his client, not anybody else. Not the sport, not the world, not the greater good, his duty is only to his client. So he’s going to allege everything, and that’s what they did.
VR: You’ve been really good with your predictions so far as it relates to all things McGregor and his legal troubles in New York, so I gotta ask you this: how long do you think this takes? We talking three to six months? Nine months? A year perhaps?
DS: I think a few months. I think as soon as this happened, they already filed this I think last week, right? Now they have to serve them, so they have to have a process server go and give them the papers, and say “Now you have to defend it“. After that, it’s about four months to do that and it’s 120 days (to comply). That’s the rule. Then those people that were served have to respond. What I think will happen is Conor contacts his lawyer and says “Let’s make this case go away“.
McGregor will return to the cage next month when he faces Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 229.
You can find Dmitriy on iTunes at the Fight Lawyer podcast, where he interviews interesting combat sports personalities on the regular. You can also check him out on Twitter.