Daniel Sturridge, an English soccer star, has been ordered to pay $30,000 to a Los Angeles man who found the player’s missing dog in 2019 and who went to court to recoup a reward he said he had been denied for the Pomeranian’s return.
After announcing that his Los Angeles home had been broken into, Mr. Sturridge said in a video at the time that he would “pay whatever” to get his missing dog back, offering “20 Gs, 30 Gs, whatever” as a reward without specifying the currency.
Shortly after that video was posted, Foster Washington of Los Angeles found the dog, Lucci, and returned him to Mr. Sturridge, according to court records. But Mr. Washington, 30, said he had never been paid, and in March, he filed a lawsuit for breach of contract.
On Tuesday, Judge Curtis A. Kin of the Los Angeles County Superior Court issued a default judgment, awarding $30,000 in damages to Mr. Washington.
Mr. Sturridge, a former England international star who played for Liverpool and Chelsea and is now a striker for the Australian team Perth Glory, said on Twitter on Saturday that “other people are trying to benefit for their own personal gain” and related a story different from Mr. Washington’s about how the dog had been recovered.
“Just to let you know the truth on xmas!” Mr. Sturridge said on Twitter. “I met a young boy who found my dog and paid him a reward, which he was delighted with as was I to get my dog back because he was stolen.”
Mr. Sturridge and his representatives did not immediately respond to emails on Saturday. Direct messages sent to an Instagram account for Lucci, which has more than 34,000 followers, were not returned.
It all started in July 2019, after Mr. Sturridge’s home was broken into and he discovered that Lucci was missing.
“I want my dog back,” he said in a video, adding: “How can you break into a house in L.A. and take somebody’s dog? Are you crazy?”
Mr. Washington, who earns $14 an hour as a security guard and has three children, said he had been walking home when he and his best friend’s son saw a dog near 88th Street and South Central Avenue. The boy’s family could not afford to have a pet, so Mr. Washington said he had decided to take the dog home.
A few hours later, a friend told Mr. Washington that Mr. Sturridge was searching for a dog that looked similar to the one he had taken in.
“He was like, ‘Hey, dude, that dog’s famous,’” Mr. Washington said on Saturday. “And I’m like, ‘What?’” He said he had no idea who Mr. Sturridge was at the time.
That day, Mr. Washington posted a photo of the dog on Twitter and asked Mr. Sturridge if it was Lucci.
Mr. Washington then contacted Kimberly Cheng from the Los Angeles news station KTLA. Mr. Washington said she had connected him with Mr. Sturridge’s representatives. Ms. Cheng did not respond to a request seeking comment on Saturday.
The dog had a small tattoo of numbers on his stomach, Mr. Washington said. Mr. Sturridge asked Mr. Washington over the phone to identify the mark to make sure it was indeed Lucci, Mr. Washington said.
They agreed to meet, and when Mr. Sturridge retrieved the dog, he thanked Mr. Washington.
“I’m like, ‘Hey, dude, what’s up with the reward?’” Mr. Washington said. “He said, ‘There is no reward.’”
Mr. Washington tried to contact Mr. Sturridge, who joined Liverpool in 2013 on a contract reported to be worth about 12 million pounds (nearly $20 million at the time), and his representatives numerous times for weeks but to no avail. Mr. Washington said his phone number and social media accounts were being blocked.
It was not immediately clear whether anyone was arrested in connection with the break-in or the theft of Lucci, who was described in court papers as a rare Pomeranian worth an estimated £4,000, or roughly $5,300. The Los Angeles police did not respond to messages on Saturday.
Mr. Washington went to the police, who “concluded that he was not one of the thieves, or related to the burglary crime in any way,” the lawsuit said. “Mr. Washington has never been implicated in any wrongdoing.”
The lawsuit added that Mr. Washington “did not receive the benefit of his bargain for supplying the dog safely and in good health.”
Mr. Washington said he had received direct messages online from people calling him selfish for wanting to get paid, but during the pandemic, as he struggled financially, he decided to file the lawsuit.
“I don’t see how I’m a bad guy by expecting him to honor this reward,” he said, adding: “Thirty thousand dollars is a lot of money. For anybody, that’s a life-changing amount of money.”