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Ex-NHLer claims wrongful termination, sues beverage maker

A contract for services in Alberta may be viewed in much the same manner as one for regular employment. Both parties are expected to live up to their end of the deal, and if either side does not, there may be grounds for termination of the contract. However, sometimes how the terms are interpreted can lead to a dispute and possibly legal action. A former professional hockey player took his case to court after a sponsorship deal ended abruptly.

In May 2011, a Toronto Maple Leafs player, Mike Zigomanis, signed a contract to promote an energy drink. He was to shoot a television commercial, make two personal appearances per year for two years and supply autographs for promotional use. The value of the contract was $200,000, to be paid in quarterly installments.

The owner of the company, Donald D'Angelo terminated the contract on March 12, 2012, claiming a morals clause in the contract had been broken. The clause stated the contract could be cancelled if Zigomanis participated in any activity that, "shocks, insults or offends the community." In Nov. 2011, nude pictures of the hockey player surfaced on an American website, posted by an ex-girlfriend. At the time of termination, D'Angelo had paid out $37,500.

In court, it was argued the photos were taken prior to the contract being signed, and were posted without Zigomanis' consent. The judge agreed, and pointed out there was nothing in the wording of the contract covering future or past behaviour. He awarded Zigomanis the balance of $162,500 owed to him in the contract.

A signed contract is a legally binding agreement between two or more parties. When the terms of that contract appear to have been broken, typically the contract can be ended. If the affected party does not agree with the interpretation, however, legal action may be appropriate. Any men or women who believe they are victims of wrongful termination may want to speak to a lawyer experienced with Alberta employment law and litigation about their situation.

Source: tsn.ca, "Former Leaf player, fired for morals clause, wins lawsuit", Rick Westmead, Nov. 17, 2016

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