Former D.C. United goalkeeper Charlie Horton has filed a lawsuit against former teammate Fabian Espindola, current DCU manager Ben Olsen, D.C. United, and MLS over injuries he sustained due to an alleged assault perpetrated by Espindola.
Courthouse News was the first to report that the lawsuit had been filed.
Horton claims that the alleged incident ended his career, and that he is still suffering from concussion symptoms to this day. He is seeking compensatory and punitive damages.
The filing states that on March 29, 2016 the United players gathered at the club's training facilities to watch video of the team's previous match. After the meeting, Espindola approached Horton and argued with him about an incident that took place during a practice session two weeks prior.
Horton indicated he wasn't interested in continuing to argue and turned to walk away from Espindola. At this time Espindola "viciously struck Mr. Horton in the left temple with his elbow." Teammates and staff who witnessed the incident soon separated the two.
The filing states that Horton "immediately began experiencing symptoms associated with a concussion," but was allowed to practice that day and was not entered into the MLS Concussion Protocol. When his symptoms worsened over that evening and the following day, Horton reported his condition to the D.C. United training staff, who referred him to the team physician. Horton was diagnosed with a concussion and then entered the MLS Concussion Protocol.
Horton's symptoms continued over the next several months, but he was cleared to play in May of 2016, just over a month after the alleged incident. Horton was subsequently loaned to USL side Richmond Kickers to regain his form and fitness, but he broke a finger that required surgery to fix, and missed the rest of the 2016 season. Horton attempted to come back with D.C. for the 2017 campaign, but was cut prior to the start of the regular season.
The filing states: "Due to the severity of his ongoing post-concussive neurological symptoms, which directly inhibited his ability to perform at a level necessary to continue his professional career, Mr. Horton was forced to officially retire from professional soccer."
The filing indicated that Olsen and D.C. United are being sued for failing to adequately supervise Espindola, despite knowledge of previous on-field incidents involving the player. Espindola was suspended six games in 2014 for shoving a referee, and was also suspended for two matches in 2014 for violent conduct directed at another player.
MLS is being sued for being negligent in its hiring and retention of Espindola, and breaching its duty of "reasonable care" despite its knowledge of the aforementioned incidents that should have rendered the player "unfit for work."