Contracts Sports Law

Naomi Osaka Wins Florida Court Case Against Trainer Who Asked For Indefinite, Big Commission

Before one can sue for breach of contract, he must be able to prove that there is an enforceable contract under which to sue. In Florida, it has been stated many times that contracts with minors can be voidable, and a minor has a legal right to disavow a contract, because of minority.

That specific issue was just played out in a case involving top women’s tennis player Naomi Osaka in Broward County, Florida. The plaintiff, a tennis instructor, filed a lawsuit based on an alleged breach of a contract dated March 21, 2012, which was signed by Osaka when she was only 15-years-old.

Osaka’s father, Leonard Francois, signed the agreement on behalf of the tennis player. The contract, which also included Naomi’s sister Mari as a party, included the following language:

“Both parties agree on a fixed fee of twenty percent (20%) on every tennis contract or monetary agreement on behalf of Marie (sic) Osaka and Naomi Osaka.”

The agreement failed to specify the exact services provided by the tennis instructor in exchange for the stated commimssion. Additionally, the term of the agreement was said to be indefinite, but either party could opt to terminate the contract at any time by providing 3 months’ written notice to the other party.

The tennis instructor filed a lawsuit against the Osakas, claiming that he provided services to them for more than 5 years, but failed to receive any commissions from the Osakas’ prize money and endorsement deals. As No. 1 player in the world, Naomi Osaka has not only begun to win a lot of money on the court, but also off of it, with a recent Forbes article indicating that she earned an estimated $16 million for the 12 months ending June 1, 2019, from deals with companies such as Mastercard, All Nippon Airways, Nissan and Procter & Gamble.

The tennis instructor had his lawsuit against Naomi Osaka dismissed for failure to follow Florida’s minor contract protocol.

The court dismissed the lawsuit, because the tennis instructor did not do what is necessary to validate a contract with a minor under Florida law. Citing to Section 743.08(3) of the Florida Statutes (referred to as the Child Performer and Athlete Protection Act), the court stated that the instructor was required to submit the contract to a court for approval if he wanted to validate the contract. Only after court approval may the minor not disaffirm based on minority. He failed to go through that process.

Additionally, the Act limits the length of such contracts with minors to 3 years. In this instance, the instructor sought an indefinite term with the Osakas. Thus, he may have had a tough time receiving court approval even if he had gone through the proper steps under the relevant Florida Statute.

Furthermore, the court noted that there was simply a failure of showing how consideration was included in the contract. The instructor did not specify the services he was providing in exchange for the grant of the stated commission.

The court found that claims of quantum meruit and unjust enrichment failed for the same main reason as the breach of contract claim — the daughters were minors. Florida courts have held that a claim for unjust enrichment will fail against a minor.

Thus, the trainer ends up with nothing despite a signed contract in hand with an individual making millions of dollars per year from on court winnings and off court endorsement deals. It is an example of why it is important to work with qualified legal counsel who understand the nuances in state laws when it comes to various types of contracts.