Former Canadian Football League commissioner Michael Lysko has won his appeal and is once again seeking more than $5-million in damages from the league for being fired.
Lysko and his lawyer, Gary Hodder, were informed yesterday that their wrongful dismissal suit against the CFL and individuals such as B.C. Lions owner David Braley and former acting commissioner John Tory was back in play because of a ruling by the Ontario Court of Appeal.
The suit was originally filed a year after Lysko was fired in March of 2002.
In November of 2004, an Ontario Superior Court judge dismissed the 64-page statement of claim, saying it was "monstrously unwieldy and does not coherently set out the case the defendants have to meet."
Lysko was allowed to appeal that decision, although two elements of the original suit, including a claim for breach of confidence, were not reinstated.
"I'm extremely grateful the Ontario Court of Appeal restored my key legal claims," said Lysko, who is now the athletic director at the University of Western Ontario in London. "I view this decision as an important step in the right direction for moving this case forward."
CFL communications director Alexis Redmond said the league "was aware of the process" and "its members will respond consistently to defend our position."
Lysko is seeking damages for alleged wrongful dismissal, breach of contract, negligent misrepresentation and defamation.
The CFL's board of governors fired him 12 days after he made controversial remarks to a newspaper about the business practices of the Toronto Argonauts and their owner at the time, Sherwood Schwarz.
In his statement of claim, Lysko alleges he was hired under false pretences, undermined by the governors during his time on the job and defamed on several occasions, including the period leading up to his dismissal.
The claim also alleges the governors failed to adhere to the terms under which Lysko agreed to serve as the commissioner and that clubs defied league policies when it came to awarding cash infusions to member clubs, staying within the salary cap and not putting advertising on player uniforms.
Lysko spent 16 months as the commissioner before Tom Wright was hired as his replacement.
The relaunch of the Lysko suit comes as Wright and the CFL are hurrying to find new ownership for the Ottawa Renegades. Unless the league locates a suitable owner within the next two weeks, it would have to choose between funding the team for 2006 or suspending it.
The mood among many club officials is that the Renegades will not operate this season, as training camps are scheduled to open in less than two months. The Renegades may have a coaching staff, but they do not have the manpower and infrastructure to sell a necessary number of season tickets and corporate sponsorships.
For now, Bernie Glieberman remains as the 'Gades majority owner.
The CFL has a committee looking for potential purchasers and another examining how suspending operations in Ottawa would affect the other franchises.