UPDATE: Jury awards Starr County man $250,000 in Vipers lawsuit

Dispute stems from 2013 halftime contest; team plans to appeal

The Rio Grande Valley Vipers will have to pay a Starr County man $250,000 after a jury sided with him Wednesday in a lawsuit over a halftime contest.

Jose Solis filed the lawsuit against the Vipers in 2013 after he said he was not awarded a vehicle for winning the contest during a January 2013 Vipers game.

Solis, a former teacher, explained Thursday that he was approached before the game to participate in the contest and said he was told all he had to do was make a three-point shot and a half-court shot in less than 60 seconds. The prize was a $75,000 Jaguar.

“I made it, everyone was yelling, everyone was high-fiving me,” he said. “What happened after that was battle after battle.”

First, he said there was a dispute over whether he had actually won the contest with Vipers officials claiming he stepped over a line and shot at the wrong basket.

Then, Solis said the award he was offered changed: from a Jaguar of lesser value, to a two-year lease. Preferring not to worry about maintenance for a vehicle he’d lease for two years, Solis said he instead asked for a check worth the value of the lease.

They agreed on the conditions that Solis take publicity photos with the vehicle, which he agreed to do.

“I was never given that check,” he said. “So my attorneys continued litigating and we eventually went to trial.”

The jury found that the Vipers, an NBA G League organization, committed fraud and awarded Solis $100,000 in actual damages and $150,000 in exemplary damages, according to Eduardo “Eddie” Ramirez, co-counsel in the case.

Solis, 38, thanked the jury, saying he felt relieved and vindicated.

The legal battle, however, will likely continue as the Vipers issued a news release Thursday stating they would appeal the verdict, calling it “unjust.”

“In the days following the Jan. 23, 2013 contest in dispute, the plaintiff and then-team president Bert Garcia exchanged communications in an effort to reach an agreement,” the statement read. “Eight days later, Mr. Solis issued a claim letter to the Vipers, and legal proceedings began.”

The organization claimed the admittance of those negotiations into evidence violated the Texas Rule of Evidence and that the jury did not answer the issue of breach of contest, the premise of the claim.

They also continued to argue that Solis did not win because he shot the ball into the wrong hoop.

“The Rio Grande Valley Vipers organization intends to exercise all of its rights, including but not limited to, exhausting all avenues of appeal.”

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