The parents and widow of former Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs, who died of a drug overdose in a Texas hotel room during a 2019 road trip, filed wrongful death lawsuits against the club Tuesday, alleging the team knew an employee was providing players with “illicit drugs.”
“The tragedy of Tyler’s death was made worse by the revelation that it could have been avoided,” the lawsuits contend.
Skaggs’ widow, Carli, filed her lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court. Skaggs’ parents — Debbie Hetman and Darrell Skaggs — filed a separate lawsuit against the team in Texas.
The team issued a statement calling the lawsuits “entirely without merit,” and their allegations “baseless and irresponsible.”
Skaggs, 27, was found dead in his hotel room at the Southlake Town Square Hilton on July 1, 2019. The Angels were staying at the hotel while in town to play the Texas Rangers. In October of last year, former Angels public relations director Eric Kay was indicted on two federal counts, alleging he distributed the fentanyl that resulted in the pitcher’s death.
The indictment returned in Texas also alleged that Kay and others who were not named conspired to possess with intent to distribute fentanyl beginning in or before 2017, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Dallas.
In the addition the Angels, the lawsuits also name Kay as a defendant, along with Kay’s supervisor while he worked for the team, Tim Mead, who was the Angels’ vice president of communications. Mead spent four decades with the Angels before leaving in 2019 to become president of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Mead stepped down from that post in April of this year.
Rusty Hardin, an attorney representing the Skaggs family, said in a statement, “Nothing will ease the pain and heartache of losing their only child and, for Carli, her husband and soulmate. But they want to get to the bottom of the circumstances surrounding Tyler’s tragic, untimely and completely avoidable death, and to hold the individuals and entities — including the Angels — accountable for the actions that contributed to it.
“As the federal grand jury indictment made plainly and painfully clear, were it not for the fentanyl in the counterfeit pill provided by Angels employee Eric Kay, Tyler would be alive today. And if the Angels had done a better job of supervising Eric Kay, Tyler would be alive today.”
Marie Garvey of the Angels issued a statement denying wrongdoing by the team.
“In 2019, Angels Baseball hired a former federal prosecutor to conduct an independent investigation to comprehensively understand the circumstances that led to Tyler’s tragic death,” Garvey said. “The investigation confirmed that the organization did not know that Tyler was using opioids, nor was anyone in management aware or informed of any employee providing opioids to any player.
“The lawsuits are entirely without merit and the allegations are baseless and irresponsible. The Angels organization strongly disagrees with the claims made by the Skaggs family and we will vigorously defend these lawsuits in court.”
The lawsuits contend Angels management “knew or should have known that Kay was supplying illicit drugs to not only Tyler, but at least five other Angels’ players, i.e., 24% of the team’s active roster.”
“Kay had a long history of drug abuse, and the Angels knew about his problems with drug abuse and addiction,” according to the lawsuits. “The Angels knew that Kay had gone to rehab several times during his employment with the Angels and that he had overdosed at least once. Despite all of this, Kay had complete access to players, day and night, both off the field and on the field, who the Angels knew, or should have known, were trying to play through the pains and injuries associated with the long baseball season.
“This was a fatal mistake.”
Kay’s attorney, Michael Molfetta, told City News Service, “I can’t really comment on the specifics of the evidence because of a court order on the criminal side.”
But he said he has “access to the discovery on the criminal side and I can tell you this right now, that the assertions made in the complaint of what went on are, to put it kindly, ambitious.”
Molfetta said the suits “ignore a holy host of things that are going to be very damning to the plaintiffs. So I hate that they decided to do this and I hate what that family is going through, but as far as my client goes we’re going to have to suspend a whole lot of things for them to prove a scintilla of what they’re alleging. It defies the calendar, the facts, everything that the evidence shows me. And, keep in mind, this evidence is incontrovertible. It blows their case against Mr. Kay out of the water.”
The lawsuits seek unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.