Speakers of Sport Inc. v. ProServ Inc.

178 F.3d 862 (1999)

Quick Summary

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Speakers of Sport (plaintiff) represented Ivan Rodriguez until ProServ (defendant) promised him millions in endorsements, leading him to switch agencies. After failing to secure these endorsements and Rodriguez signing elsewhere, Speakers sued ProServ for fraudulent inducement.

The district court ruled in favor of ProServ and on appeal, the Seventh Circuit affirmed this decision stating that ProServ’s actions did not equate to fraud or tortious interference according to Illinois law.

Facts of the Case

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Speakers of Sport, Inc. (plaintiff) served as the representation agency for Ivan Rodriguez, a star catcher for the Texas Rangers. Rodriguez had signed a series of one-year, at-will contracts with Speakers of Sport, who in return for securing endorsements, received a percentage of the earnings.

ProServ, Inc. (defendant), another sports representation firm, enticed Rodriguez with the promise of securing between $2 million to $4 million in endorsements, leading Rodriguez to switch agencies and sign with them.

ProServ’s efforts to secure endorsements for Rodriguez were unsuccessful, and he left them after one year to sign with a different agent. This agent later secured a lucrative $42 million contract for Rodriguez.

Speakers of Sport then filed a lawsuit against ProServ alleging fraudulent promises were made to Rodriguez, which led to the termination of their contract with him.

Procedural Posture and History

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  1. Speakers of Sport filed suit against ProServ in federal district court, alleging fraudulent inducement.
  2. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of ProServ.
  3. Speakers of Sport appealed the decision to the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.

I.R.A.C. Format


Issue Icon

Whether ProServ’s promise to secure endorsements for Rodriguez, which led to the termination of his contract with Speakers of Sport, constitutes fraudulent inducement and tortious interference with a business relationship under Illinois law.

Rule of Law

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Illinois law governs the substantive issues of this case, which includes determining if inducing the termination of an at-will contract through promises can be actionable as interference with prospective economic advantage or with the contract itself. Furthermore, Illinois law holds that promissory fraud is not actionable unless part of a scheme to defraud.

Reasoning and Analysis

Reasoning Icon

The court reasoned that competition between sports agents is a normal and essential part of the industry and does not constitute a tort unless it involves an actual breach of contract or other unlawful means.

The court found that ProServ’s conduct did not amount to fraud as the promise made was considered aspirational and not enforceable. They noted that in Illinois, a single unfulfilled promise does not establish fraud unless it is part of a pattern indicating a scheme to defraud.

The court also determined that Speakers could not sue under the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Practices Act as they were not a consumer harmed by ProServ’s actions and did not represent consumer interests.

Moreover, Speakers could not prove any damages directly linked to ProServ’s actions as Rodriguez’s subsequent $42 million contract was negotiated by another agent long after leaving Speakers.


Conclusion Icon

The Court affirmed the summary judgment in favor of ProServ, holding that their actions did not constitute tortious interference or fraud under Illinois law.

Key Takeaways

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  1. Inducing termination of an at-will contract through promises is not automatically tortious interference or fraud under Illinois law.
  2. A single unfulfilled promise is insufficient for proving fraud unless it is part of a scheme or pattern indicating intent to defraud.
  3. Competition between sports agents is not unlawful unless it involves breach of contract or other illegal acts.
  4. The Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Practices Act cannot be invoked by a business claiming damages unless there is clear evidence of consumer harm or misrepresentation.

Relevant FAQs of this case

What constitutes tortious interference with a prospective economic advantage?

To establish tortious interference with prospective economic advantage, there must be proof of a legitimate business expectancy, the defendant’s knowledge thereof, purposeful interference by the defendant causing a breach or termination of the expectancy, and resultant damage to the plaintiff.

  • For example:A competitor spreads false rumors about a company’s product, leading to lost sales and customers.

Under what conditions can a promise be considered fraudulent?

A promise is considered fraudulent if it was known to be false when made, was made with the intention to deceive, and was relied upon by the other party to their detriment.

  • For example:A contractor assures a homeowner they’ll use high-grade materials but intends to use inferior quality to cut costs, affecting the durability of the work.

How does Illinois law differentiate between aspirational promises and enforceable ones?

Illinois law differentiates that aspirational promises are those expressing hopes or targets without guaranteeing results, whereas enforceable promises commit to delivering specific outcomes and are often supported by tangible measures or consideration.

  • For example:A gym trainer promising ‘We aim to help you feel healthier’ versus ‘Sign up for our program and lose 10 pounds in a month guaranteed, or your money back’.
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