The U.S. Tennis Association files response to Canadian Eugenie Bouchard's lawsuit

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Eugenie Bouchard of Canada is treated after she was injured while playing against Andrea Petkovic of Germany during their women's singles match at the China Open tennis tournament in Beijing, China, October 5, 2015. REUTERS/Stringer CHINA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN CHINA.
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In a 16-page document filed Friday in response to the complaint filed by Genie Bouchard's New York attorneys Oct. 14, the U.S. Tennis Association essentially deny every item contained in the Canadian tennis star's lawsuit, which seeks damages in the wake of her fall in the women's locker room at the US Open Sept. 4 – a fall that basically scuttled her 2015 season.

That's obviously not too surprising – nor is the tone of the defence, which is fairly standard.

"The USTA (referred to as the 'Answering Defendants'), 'deny knowledge or information sufficient to form a belief as to the truth of the allegations contained in Paragraph I of the Complaint, but ... deny that they were negligent and that such alleged negligence was a substantial contributing factor in causing Plaintiff's injuries.'

It's all detailed legalese, addressing each item in Bouchard's claim point by tedious point, as the USTA even denies "knowledge or information sufficient to form a belief as to the truth of the allegations that Ms. Bouchard was the number twenty five (25) ranked player in the women's bracket."

They do admit that she was the No. 25 seed in the tournament (in actual fact, per the rankings of Aug. 24, 2015, which were used for the seeding, Bouchard was indeed ranked No. 25).

Here are some of the major points of the response (key parts highlighted in red):

The USTA dismisses as "entirely speculative and certain" the claim that "alleges, or intends to infer", that Bouchard would have won the prize money allocated to the US Open champion. They also dismiss as speculative the notion that Bouchard would have won a certain amount of prize money on the Asian swing of the WTA Tour that followed the US Open (Bouchard played just half of one match in what had originally, before the incident, been four scheduled tournaments).

Also dismissed as speculative is the notion that any drop in Bouchard's ranking has occurred solely because of the incident.

It also dismisses as "speculative and uncertain" the claim that Bouchard has lost, or will lose, corporate endorsement revenue as a result of the incident.

They are "uncertain" as to which room the complaint is referring to when it mentions a "tiled floor" - a term the USTA considers "vague and undefined".

They deny that Bouchard "was caused to slip and fall as alleged" and, more crucially, "specifically state that Plaintiff should not have entered the physiotherapy room as she alleges without the express consent of, or accompaniment of, authorized personnel."

The USTA claims that as an experienced WTA Tour player, Bouchard would or should have known about the "procedures and protocols" related to the physiotherapy room and that on Sept. 4, acted "in contravention to these protocols and procedures and expectations", therefore "knowingly and voluntarily assumed all risks of injury inherent ... and therefore barred from recovery under the doctrine of primary assumption of risk." Therefore, they claim, Bouchard demonstrated "contributory negligence and culpable conduct."

They deny they "had a duty to provide any warning to Ms. Bouchard" about the alleged slippery state of hte floor.

They even deny that the mixed doubles match late that Friday night ended at 10 p.m.

The Canadian tennis star, accompanied by a representive of her management company, arrives at the US Open Sunday afternoon. She withdrew from the tournament later in the afternoon. (Stephanie Myles/opencourt.ca)
The Canadian tennis star, accompanied by a representive of her management company, arrives at the US Open Sunday afternoon. She withdrew from the tournament later in the afternoon. (Stephanie Myles/opencourt.ca)

They are demanding a trial by jury (as did Bouchard's initial complaint).

Also mentioned in the complaint:

-"any economic loss by Bouchard will be "replaced or indemnified, in whole or in part, from collateral sources."  (Broadly, that means insurance policies)

-The USTA claims that the physiotherapy room in the women's locker room, which Bouchard claims was dark, is "never dark", that there is twilight lighting that partially illuminates the room once the lights are turned off and that the condition of the floor was "open and obvious".

-"any damages sustained by the Plaintiff were proximately caused or contributed to by the intervening or superseding intentional conduct or negligence of third-parties that the Plaintiff has not named in this action."

-The USTA also alleges that Bouchard "refused offers of medical attention and assistance" made after she "complained to attendants in the women's locker room of having fallen." Instead, the USTA says, she left.

(if true, the latter two responses go against the commonly-accepted narrative that Bouchard was alone in there).  

-The USTA intends to use Bouchard's high-profile presence on social media - i.e. various selfies of her social activities over the last few weeks– to establish an inconsistency with her claim of "on-going and permanent physical injuries sequelae to date."

Bouchard lawyer Benedict Morelli, speaking to the New York Times, called it "victim-blaming."

“Assumption of the risk applies to skiing down a mountain, which is an inherently dangerous thing to do,” he told the Times. “Or jumping out of an airplane. Is that this? Of course not. You assume the risk walking into a room?”

So, to sum up, it's on. You can read the entire reponse here.

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