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Civil suit against Cards' Martinez over alleged fight asks if Ozuna was involved

Civil suit against Cards' Martinez over alleged fight asks if Ozuna was involved

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St. Louis Cardinals v Cleveland Indians

St. Louis Cardinals' Carlos Martinez is congratulated by teammates including Marcell Ozuna (right) and Miles Mikolas (center) as he returns to the dugout after driving in a run with a sacrifice fly in the second inning during a game between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Cleveland Indians at Busch Stadium on Tuesday, June 26, 2018, in St. Louis, Mo. Photo by Chris Lee, clee@post-dispatch.com

Representatives for Carlos Martinez are requesting the man suing the Cardinals starter confirm whether or not a current teammate was involved in an alleged fight at a strip club parking lot. The request was made in court documents filed recently in an ongoing civil suit that was moved to federal court at the Southern District of Illinois.

A lawsuit brought against Martinez this year alleges that the pitcher and a group of friends had attacked a St. Louis man in July 2014 outside a strip club near East St. Louis. That group, according to a public record, included the late Oscar Taveras and seeks confirmation that current Cardinals outfielder Marcell Ozuna was also involved. The case, originally filed in St. Clair County, was moved to federal court in recent months due to the parties being from different states. Martinez’s representatives have requested a jury trial.

The plaintiff, Andrew D’Angelo, is seeking damages for “significant medical injuries” the complaint says he sustained during the fight, and the lawsuit also seeks damages from the strip club’s owner, IRC. Those are the only two defendants named. The alleged fight did not result in any criminal charges.

Ozuna’s representative said he and his client consider the event and any alleged role in it “resolved.”

Martinez, through his attorney, has denied any wrongdoing or role in the plaintiff’s injuries and asserted an intent to challenge the suit.

“Mr. Martinez never once touched, let alone punched, the plaintiff,” said Jon Fetterolf, Martinez’s attorney at Washington-based Zuckerman Spaeder. “He is not responsible for any injuries or damages that the plaintiff allegedly suffered and there simply is no basis for any claims against Mr. Martinez. Mr. Martinez will accordingly continue to defend himself against these knowingly false allegations.”

As part of pretrial discovery, a request for admission was filed by Martinez’s representation June 14, and in that request the plaintiff is asked a series of true-or-false questions about the event. The questions include whether Ozuna “physically struck you multiple times.” A similar series of questions is asked about Taveras’ actions, and whether “persons besides” the three named players “struck” the plaintiff. The purpose of this filing is to have the plaintiff “admit” or “deny” these statements as both sides of the suit gather information.

Ozuna was not identified by name in the original complaint, nor is he identified in an amended complaint, filed in April. The amended complaint identifies only Martinez and Taveras by name and then three other members of the group by connection to Martinez. Like Martinez and Taveras, only one other person is identified by his size.

“We were aware of it,” said Ozuna’s representative, St. Louis-based attorney Scott Rosenblum, when asked about his client’s name appearing in the suit and the alleged event. “And everything has been addressed to Mr. Ozuna’s satisfaction.”

At the time of the alleged incident, Ozuna was a member of the Miami Marlins, who were in town July 4, 2014, to face the Cardinals. This past winter, the Cardinals acquired Ozuna from the Marlins in exchange for four players. Ozuna has been the Cardinals’ starting left fielder and cleanup hitter for most of the season, and he is under team control through 2019.

John Mozeliak, the Cardinals president of baseball operations, told the Post-Dispatch on Friday that he was aware of the alleged event and had been told by Ozuna’s representation that there had been resolution.

The event described in the lawsuit happened years before Major League Baseball’s current policy regarding what would spur an investigation.

The Cardinals’ opening day starter this season, Martinez has had an uneven season for the team, which included a stint on the disabled list with a muscle strain and fits of inconsistencies. The National League’s ERA leader when he went on the DL in early May, Martinez is 4-4 with a 3.22 ERA in 13 starts overall. He had his best – and longest – start since the injury with eight strikeouts in six innings for a win against Cleveland this week.

Taveras, an outfielder for the Cardinals in 2014, was killed in an automobile accident in October 2014, just months after the alleged fight which would have come hours after a Cardinals game.

The lawsuit contends that Martinez and his group got into “a verbal dispute” with the plaintiff at a bar in St. Louis. That same night, the plaintiff and Martinez both agree, in separate court documents, that they were at the same strip club. The plaintiff alleges in the complaint that he was “jumped” in the parking lot and hit “in the face with sufficient force to knock to the ground and (become disoriented).”

At one point in the request for admission, the plaintiff is asked to admit or deny if a letter for restitution sent in June 2016 lacked a mention of being “physically struck” by Martinez.

D’Angelo requests damages of at least $150,000 from Martinez as compensation, and seeks an additional amount in excess of $100,000 from the strip club’s owner. Depositions are scheduled for later this summer. The jury trial, according to court documents, is tentatively set for May 2019.

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