An Oklahoma hospital that failed to build a women’s health center in honor of Garth Brooks’ late mother must pay the superstar singer $1 million, so sayeth a jury of Oklahoma country music fans.
Last night, the Oklahoma jury found in favor of Garth and decided that that the hospital must return Brooks’ $500,000 donation as well as pay him an additional $500,000 in punitive damages. The decision came in Brooks’ breach-of-contract lawsuit against Integris Canadian Valley Regional Hospital in Yukon, Oklahoma, which is, incidentally, located on Garth Brooks Blvd. It was Garth’s position that he’d reached a deal with the Hospital’s president for the “naming rights” of the new health center in exchange for his 2005 donation. After taking the donation, the Hospital wanted to use the money for other construction projects. Garth sued and, in a move that can only be described as “ill-advised,” the Hospital let this case go to a jury.
I freely admit I don’t know anything about the legal specifics of this case and I would be curious to know if punitive damages are in fact available for breach of contract claims in Oklahoma. However, regardless of the strength of its legal claims, the Hospital should have resolved this mess before throwing it in the lap of the Honkey-Tonk Bar Association. Everybody knows that Garth has Friends in Low Places and that an Oklahoma jury is going to find in favor of one of its favorite sons, especially when he’s donated big money to honor his late momma and especially when his country music star wife (the fabulous Trisha Yearwood) is sitting by him in the courtroom. And, while $1,000,000 (plus its own attorney fees) is certainly a lot of money, I bet the bigger cost is the damage to the Hospital’s brand. The Hospital comes off as an untrustworthy welcher in a case that has (unsurprisingly) recieved national attention. How many folks are going to be willing to make substantial donations to them at this point? While I guess it’s possible that Garth refused to settle this case and, as plaintiff, that would be his right, the Hospital should have sat down with Garth over a few Long-neck Bottles and worked this out. I bet Garth is presently on a beach somewhere with Trisha, yodeling out an “I told you so,” with Two Pina Coladas, one for each hand. After all, this isn’t his first Rodeo.