Supreme Court rejects bid to reinstate Bias family's suit

November 06, 1990|By Lyle Denniston | Lyle Denniston,Washington Bureau of The Sun

WASHINGTON -- The family of the late Maryland basketball star Len Bias failed to persuade the Supreme Court yesterday to revive their $1-million-plus damages claim against the pro sports agency that represented him before he died of a cocaine overdose.

In a brief order, the court indicated it would not disturb lower courts' action throwing out, without a trial, the lawsuit against Advantage International and one of its agents, A. Lee Fentress.

The family had claimed that the agency and Fentress did not act on time, before Bias died, to get a $1 million life insurance policy and a lucrative shoe-endorsement contract with Reebok International.

If the endorsement contract had been signed in time, the family contended, Reebok would have been obliged to provide $175,000 in "up-front" money.

Bias had hired Advantage as his pro agency in April 1986, after his basketball career as a Terrapin had ended. In June, he was picked by the Boston Celtics in the first round of the draft. Two days later, he died of a cocaine overdose.

In the lawsuit, James Bias, Len's father, acting as legal representative of his son's estate, claimed that Advantage had promised to get a $1 million life insurance policy for his son, but did not move fast enough. The lawsuit also claimed that Advantage did not press diligently to get the Reebok contract.

Lower courts, however, said that evidence that Len Bias was a drug user would have made him ineligible for a life insurance policy, anyway. Those courts also said that the Reebok contract could not have been negotiated any faster.

In the unsuccessful appeal to the Supreme Court, James Bias contended that lower courts unfairly put too heavy a burden on the family to disprove the pro agency's evidence.

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