Zachary Lutz Fights for Suit Against Japanese Team to Stay in U.S.

On December 14, 2017, former New York Mets player Zachary Lutz requested the Pennsylvania federal court to keep his suit alive against Japanese baseball team owners. Rakuten Baseball Inc. moved to dismiss Lutz’s case by citing to parallel proceedings in Japan. In August, Lutz initiated the lawsuit against Rakuten Inc., the owner of Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, for refusing to sign a contract with Lutz for the 2015 season after months negotiating, which left Lutz unable to find another team under similar terms.

Lutz opposed Rakuten’s motion to dismiss, stating that the team reaching out to him in his home state gives the court jurisdiction. In addition, Rakuten reached out to Lutz while he was rehabbing from surgery as well as Lutz signing the contract in Pennsylvania. Lutz also cited to Rakuten’s global business model, which includes an e-commerce strategy used by its subsidiary Ebates Inc., and Rakuten’s own sponsorship with the NBA’s Golden State Warriors. Lutz claimed the solicitation of customers on e-commerce platforms and a $60 million deal to place the company logo on the Warriors’ jerseys are enough to show Rakuten has adequate business in the region for the case to continue in Pennsylvania. As for Rakuten’s personal outreach to Lutz, he argued the personal contact also provides jurisdiction because the company reached out to Lutz in Pennsylvania and the injury is related to that contact. Lutz also pointed out that having to pursue the case in Japan would create significant language barriers for him, but Rakuten would not have that issue considering it lists its official language as English.

Further, Lutz argued policy reasons for the suit to stay in Pennsylvania because, “Pennsylvania’s interest in protecting its citizens from financial injury and intentionally tortious conduct outweighs Japan’s interest in a baseball game.” Lastly, Lutz alleged Rakuten’s parallel proceedings in Japan were an attempt to get the Pennsylvania case dismissed because the Japanese suit was filed just days before the motion to dismiss. Lutz further asserted that his claims against the Rakuten CEO should continue because he has emails that will support the allegations that the CEO was hands-on and was part of the decision to renege the deal. Through further discovery, Lutz strives to find reasoning why his contract was rescinded.

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