Former D.C. United backup goalkeeper Charlie Horton is suing former teammate and current Nexaca forward Fabian Espindola, current United manager Ben Olsen, D.C. United and Major League Soccer claiming Espindola gave him a career ending concussion in a fight during training.

In the report filed in Washington D.C., Horton claimed that Espindola went up to Horton after a film session and engaged in an argument that started weeks before. Horton said that he didn’t want to continue the argument and walked away. Espindola then allegedly elbowed Horton in the head, resulting in a concussion and after an attempted comeback, was forced to retire. Espindola is being sued for three counts of “assault, battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress.” Olsen and D.C. United are being sued for “negligent supervision” and MLS for “negligent hiring and retention.” MLS and D.C. United are also being sued for “respondeat superior/vicarious liability.”

The report said that Espindola was banned from practice until he talked about the incident with Olsen. For Horton, despite having the typical symptoms that would indicate a concussion, didn’t go into concussion protocol and practiced. After symptoms worsened, Horton was diagnosed with a concussion the next day.

The 22-year-old Horton came over to MLS from England, getting experience at such notable places as Cardiff City and Leeds United on the youth sides. Horton then came to the United States and was signed with D.C. United in 2016 along with playing on the U.S. U-23 team.

Espindola has been noted in the lawsuit to have a temper in which he took things physically. Espindola was once suspended six games for pushing a linesman during the 2014 MLS Cup Playoffs in addition to other suspensions for on-field violent behavior. Horton’s lawyers claim that because Espindola’s history was known by Olsen, D.C. United and MLS that they were liable for what happened.

But that alone doesn’t mean that Horton should win his case. One reason why you don’t see lawsuits flying left and right after players get seriously injured is because players know there is a risk of injury if they were to get injured on the field during a game or practice and they take on that risk. When retired NFL players sued the league for concussions, they sued because they claimed the NFL knew the players were at risk and were never informed themselves in order to make the decision whether or not to play. They eventually settled and now that current players are now fully aware of the risks, they cannot sue the NFL for that reason anymore.

In Horton’s case, his lawyers need to convince that this injury happened at a time where there was no connection to a game or training situation. Fighting isn’t a normal part of soccer and some would consider that as unrelated to the game and would have a case. If Horton got his concussion during a game after getting into a collision while making a save and that ended his career, he wouldn’t have a case because he knew the risk. This is a bit different and that’s why this lawsuit has been filed. As far as if that’s really what happened, that’s for the court to decide.

[PDF of the lawsuit thanks to Joe Dent]


About Phillip Bupp

News editor for The Comeback and Awful Announcing, highlight consultant for Major League Soccer as well as a freelance writer for hire. Opinions are my own but feel free to agree with them.

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