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Family Blames LA Angels for Pitcher’s Overdose Death

Tyler Skaggs' parents and widow claim the team knew its communications director dealt drugs to at least five players, nearly a quarter of the active roster.

FORT WORTH, Texas (CN) --- The widow and parents of baseball pitcher Tyler Skaggs filed a pair of lawsuits against the Los Angeles Angels and two of the team’s former employees Tuesday, accusing them of negligence in his opioid overdose death during a road trip in Texas two years ago.

Skaggs’ parents, Debbie Hetman and Darrell Skaggs, sued the Angels, former communications director Eric Kay and former communications vice president Tim Mead in Tarrant County, Texas, District Court. His widow, Carli Skaggs, filed an identical lawsuit in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

The family seeks actual and punitive damages for wrongful death and negligence relating to Skaggs, 27, being found dead in his Southlake hotel room on July 1, 2019. The Tarrant County medical examiner concluded Skaggs choked on his own vomit after finding a mixture of “ethanol, fentanyl and oxycodone” in his body.

Southlake police later found blue and pink pills in the hotel room and collected white residue, all later confirmed to contain fentanyl. Kay, 46, faces a federal charge of conspiracy to distribute fentanyl. He faces up to 20 years in federal prison as his trial is scheduled to begin on Aug. 16 in Fort Worth. Federal prosecutors claim he dealt the opioids to Skaggs, that Skaggs texted Kay earlier in the day for five pills and texted Kay his room number.

“I learned that T.S. and Kay had a history of narcotics transactions, including several exchanges, wherein Kay acquired oxycodone pills for T.S. and others from Kay’s source(s) and distributed these pills to T.S. and others,” an affidavit by U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration special agent Geoffrey Lindeberg stated last year. “Kay had multiple contacts with some of these source{s} in the days leading up to and surrounding T.S.’s overdose death.”

The lawsuits claim the Angels were aware that Kay was dealing drugs to at least five other Angels players – 24% of the team’s active roster.

“The Angels knew that Kay had gone to rehab several times during his employment with the Angels and that he had overdosed at least once,” the 16-page complaint states. “Despite all of this, Kay had complete access to players, day and night both off the field and on the field, who the Angels knew, or should have known, were trying to play through the pains and injuries associated with the long baseball season.”

The family’s attorney, Rusty Hardin in Houston, said the decision to file the lawsuits “has been very difficult” for the family.

"Nothing will ease the pain and heartache of losing their only child and, for Carli, her husband and soulmate,” Hardin said in a statement. “But they want to get to the bottom of the circumstances surrounding Tyler’s tragic, untimely and completely avoidable death, and to hold the individuals and entities – including the Angels – accountable for the actions that contributed to it."

The Angels did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment on the lawsuits Tuesday afternoon. The Angels said after Kay’s arrest last year that “all of us affected by this loss continue to grieve” for Skaggs.

The team has previously denied that anyone in management was aware the Kay was dealing opioids to players and has denied knowledge of Skaggs’ drug use.

The lawsuits dispute this claim, stating Mead and at least one other person in the Angels organization knew Kay was dealing drugs to players.

“Mead, who was Kay’s direct superior, had a long-term close and personal relationship with Kay,” the complaint states. “He was also well aware of Kay’s drug problems, even visiting him in the hospital after Kay overdosed (less than three months before Tyler died).” (Parentheses in original.)

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