Players Seek Summary Judgment in WPTE Lawsuit
Back in July of 2006 seven professional poker players filed an antitrust lawsuit against the World Poker Tour. Recently, the players (Annie Duke, Andy Bloch, Joe Hachem, Howard Lederer, Chris Ferguson, Phil Gordon, and Greg Raymer) upped the ante and filed a motion for summary judgment in the case at the federal district court in Los Angeles. By moving for a summary judgment the players are, in essence, asking the judge to decide in their favor, without going to trial.
A summary judgment is sought when it is believed that the facts in a case are evident and undisputable and a judgment is just a matter of law. In cases where the underlying law is inherently complex, or where the facts and evidence have room for interpretation, a summary judgment is far less likely to be granted.
The crux of the players' lawsuit, filed during the 2006 WSOP, alleges that the WPT television release form that players must sign to play in WPT events violates antitrust laws. Specifically, but not solely, at issue is the requirement for players to grant the WPTE free and unrestricted use of their name and image to promote any WPTE products or services.
Because this is an antitrust case, and US antitrust law is notoriously complex, one might conclude that this suit is an unlikely candidate for summary judgment, but the players' lead counsel Jeffrey Kessler disagrees. "This case is very different from the typical antitrust case in which the rule of reason applies and a summary determination is often not possible. We believe we have a very strong summary judgment motion because the type of agreements imposed by the WPT are so patently anticompetitive that they are considered to be either per se or "quick look" violations of the antitrust laws – which are suitable for a summary determination on motion by plaintiffs."
Both sides have agreed to suspend discovery (the collection and production of additional facts and evidence) pending the resolution of the motion
Representatives of the World Poker Tour had no comment on the matter.