Ask The Commish: Can I Sue My Commissioner?

By Reginald James
Reginald James

Can you sue someone, a commissioner, if they took the dues money, but then didn’t or won’t pay you? I placed second in my league, but I’m not the only one. Not one of us first through third got paid. He apologized and told us he just couldn’t pay us. Worse, they wouldn’t say when they could when asked, or what the hell he did with the money in the first place. He won’t answer us anymore. I’m serious, just because it’s a fantasy league, doesn’t mean he can get away with something like this. Are you a lawyer, Commish?!!!


No, I’m not a lawyer, and I have yet to play one on TV. However, I hear about this happening more often than I should. We really shouldn’t hear stories like this at all, but it’s really not surprising. People mixing their competitive endeavors with money can make for a nasty cocktail.


It doesn’t matter that this issue involves a fantasy league. He owes you money and is obligated to pay it. You’re right, he shouldn’t get away with it. He also owes the whole league, not just the three winners, an explanation about what happened to the money.


Your emotions are probably running pretty high right now, so the first thing I would do is cease any communication with your errant commissioner for the moment. No more angry email or texts from any of you - if that’s what has been happening.


If you are truly serious, the non-lawyer here, thinks you may be able to at least take them to small claims court. The appeal of small claims court is that you are not required to have a lawyer. Your claim wouldn’t be that complicated. There’s not a lot of moving parts to this, and hiring a lawyer would probably cost more than the money you’re trying to collect.


It’s easy to find the steps on how to file a small claims case by searching online. During this cool-off period, educate yourself on what to do. Get settled, and in the meantime start collecting evidence:



• Do you have any evidence - in writing - that clearly states the amount of money each member of your league had to pay?


• Do you have any correspondence that clearly states what the prize payouts were going to be? This is important.


• Does any of the language describe what was supposed to happen at the end of the season in regard to the payout?


• Did you all have to sign contracts at the beginning of the season?


Just yesterday, I actually read about a league that does this. I had never heard of something like this before, but if your league does it, what’s in the contract?


Collect all the information you can, whether it’s league emails, personal texts, or a header on your league message board - anything that came from him, that explicitly states the monetary details, as well as what his role as commissioner involved. It would be great if the three of you were onboard together in pursuing legal action because then you’re more likely to have more evidence if the each of you have been contacting him separately. The more evidence you have the better.


If you feel you have enough proof for your case. I would send him an email one last time specifically stating you and your league mates paid dues, which were collected by him, which were supposed to be pooled and paid out as prize money at the end of the season. Also, be sure to mention his role as commissioner and cite what he has failed to do to date. Request your money.


The season just ended, so give him a little more time to do the right thing. It’s not my place to tell you how long that shiould be. Once you decide how long you’re going to give him to respond, if he doesn’t respond by your deadline, take action. The next time he hears from you will be when he gets served. Just make sure you and the gang, each reach out to him one last time so it’s official. You'll have a bit more evidence that shows you reached out in good faith.


I feel I have to repeat that I am not a lawyer, but I love watching Judge Judy and Judge Mathis. I don’t know why you wouldn’t have a case or be successful in your suit as long as there’s evidence where his obligation to the league is spelled out clearly and specifically. I hope I’ve helped in some way.


Also, if you Google “Handel on the Law” you’ll get info on Bill Handel, who is a lawyer, and gives free advice on his radio show. Maybe you can give him a call. I used to listen to his show all the time for many years. He talks about small claims cases and lawsuits all the time. His whole show is telling callers whether or not if they have a case, and what they need to do to help themselves.


Let me know what you decide to do. Good luck.



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