Former communications chief Tim Mead “knew or should have known” that his subordinate, former communications director Eric Kay, was providing drugs to Skaggs and others, according to lawsuits filed against the team, Mead and Kay by Skaggs’s parents in California and by his widow in Texas.
The suits allege a “perfect storm” in which Kay, who himself had allegedly overdosed earlier that year, was allowed to continue working closely with baseball players who, because of “the rigors of a 162-game schedule … are at risk of turning to medication to assist with pain management.”
“These conditions were outrageously dangerous,” read the lawsuits, filed by Skaggs’s family attorney, Rusty Hardin, “and ultimately cost Tyler his life.”
The Angels said in a statement the allegations “are entirely without merit and the allegations are baseless and irresponsible” and they will “vigorously defend these lawsuits in court.”
The team said an independent investigation by an outside attorney hired by the team probed “the circumstances that led to Tyler’s tragic death” and found the organization and its management were “not aware or informed of any employee providing opioids to any player.”
Kay is awaiting federal trial on charges he gave Skaggs the laced oxycodone pill that caused his death at age 27 in a hotel room in Fort Worth while the Angels were on a road trip to face the Texas Rangers. “It’s a horrible situation and a situation that is unfortunately very common in this country and this world when you’re dealing with the subject of drug addiction,” Kay’s attorney, Michael Molfetta, said Tuesday of Skaggs’s death. “To blame one person or one franchise for that is ambitious and is also not borne out by the facts.”
Mead’s attorney, Eric D. Vandevelde, said in a statement that Mead “was not aware, informed, or had any knowledge whatsoever that Tyler may have used opioids, or that Eric Kay or any Angels employee had ever provided opioids to any player. Any statement to the contrary is reckless and false.”
Skaggs was found dead July 1, 2019, and a Texas autopsy determined he choked on his own vomit after ingesting a toxic mix of alcohol, fentanyl and oxycodone. Kay was indicted this past October on charges including distribution of a controlled substance resulting in death. The criminal complaint alleged Kay distributed oxycodone pills to Skaggs “and others in their place of employment and while they were working.”
The lawsuits blame Mead, who was vice president of communications and is characterized in the lawsuits as the sixth-highest-ranking member of the Angels organization, for employing and continuing to promote Kay after his drug problem allegedly became obvious, including following rehab stints while working for the team.
The legal complaints cite an ESPN article that reported Kay told federal agents that Mead and at least one other Angels employee knew he was giving drugs to players. Mead left the Angels in April 2019, shortly before Skaggs’s death, to be president of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. He announced his resignation from that position in April, citing family reasons.
The lawsuits purport a link between Kay’s continued employment and his alleged illicit distribution of pain killers. “Why would the Angels promote a drug addict to an executive position, which granted him access to the Angels’ players, such that he was constantly seen hanging out with players in the locker room, on the team plane, and in their hotel rooms?” the complaints read. “The answer to this question became obvious when Kay admitted to DEA investigators he had been providing illegal opioids to at least six Angels’ players.”
Hardin and Skaggs’s family said in a statement they declined to comment further on the filings.
Kay’s jury trial, which has been repeatedly delayed, is scheduled to begin in August.