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Hold My Beer: Browns get Doused with Lawsuit in Mistaken Identity Case 

by Kevin Brown

Published: November, 2019

Submission: November, 2019


On Sunday, September 8, 2019, the Cleveland Browns hosted the Tennessee Titans for the first game of their 2019 season. The game did not go well for the Browns that day. They lost badly to the Titans - 43 to 13. During the fourth quarter, Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield threw an interception that was run back for a “pick six” by Titans player Malcolm Butler. Butler jumped into the stands to celebrate, and Titans cornerback Logan Ryan joined him. As cameras rolled, an apparently disgruntled Browns’ fan (a bearded man wearing sunglasses, a Browns jersey and a hat) doused Ryan with beer. Ryan was not pleased. The next day, he complained about the incident on social media, and the Browns reportedly investigated it.

According to a recent lawsuit filed in the Court of Common Pleas in Cuyahoga County, Ohio (Eric Smith vs. Cleveland Browns Football ClubLLC), the Browns’ investigation led them to identify Eric Smith as the culprit. Unfortunately, as alleged in the suit, Eric Smith (the plaintiff) was not at the game that day. In fact, he allegedly was at his home relaxing with his wife and kids before he left for a wedding DJ gig. According to Smith, within a few days of the incident, the Browns Vice President of Sales and Tickets (Bob Sivik) called Smith at his office and informed him that they had used footage from “multiple security cameras” in the stadium to identify him as the beer-tosser. When Smith allegedly explained they had the wrong guy, the Browns VP was allegedly “rude, short and dismissive,” told Smith he was a liar and that he was banned from First Energy Stadium (the Browns’ stadium). Smith asserts claims against the Browns for negligence (predicated on the Browns’ alleged failure to properly investigate the incident), defamation, negligent infliction of emotional distress, false light and loss of consortium. Smith is seeking damages in excess of $25,000 and a public retraction.

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