Attorneys representing the PGA Tour plan to ask a federal judge to consider pushing back the discovery deadline and scheduled start of an antitrust lawsuit involving LIV Golf’s claims that the PGA Tour is using monopoly powers to squash competition and has discouraged vendors, media partners and others from working with LIV Golf.
In a joint motion filed to the U.S. District Court for Northern California on Sunday, lawyers representing the PGA Tour and LIV Golf asked U.S. District Judge Beth Labson Freeman to schedule a case management conference to delay the current trial date of January 2024 and extend the discovery schedule.
The PGA Tour’s attorneys wrote that “there are at least four reasons why these adjustments are necessary to avoid serious prejudice to the Tour’s ability to defend against LIV’s claims and prosecute its tortious interference counterclaims.”
Among them, according to the PGA Tour attorneys, are:
• Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund and the fund’s governor, Yasir Al-Rumayyan, “continue to resist compliance with the Tour’s subpoenas for documents and testimony, a dispute that remains unresolved and which will likely lead to an appeal.”
“PIF and Mr. Al-Rumayyan have taken extraordinary steps to avoid producing a single document or providing sworn testimony,” PGA Tour lawyers wrote. “To date, the TOUR has been unable to obtain any discovery from either PIF or Mr. Al-Rumayyan.”
• The PGA Tour is seeking to amend its counterclaim to add PIF and Al-Rumayyan as defendants in its countersuit against LIV Golf “because recently produced documents show that they played a central role in tortiously interfering with the Tour’s contracts.”
• The PGA Tour’s attorneys also argued that “LIV, the current and former player plaintiffs, and several third parties have failed to produce key documents and, in some cases, have failed to produce documents at all.”
“[T]he nature of this case has significantly evolved since the Court set the current January 2024 trial date, from a case about individual golfers to a case about two competing golf leagues, substantially undermining Plaintiffs’ stated basis for an expedited case schedule,” PGA Tour attorneys wrote in the motion.
As things stand, the deadline to complete document discovery is next month (March 30) and the fact discovery cutoff is May 26.
“The current trial date and discovery schedule are untenable in view of these issues,” PGA Tour attorneys wrote. “Given the present status of discovery (or lack thereof) from PIF and Mr. Al-Rumayyan in particular, it is not realistic for the parties to meet the current deadlines. In fact, PIF and Mr. Al-Rumayyan have already signaled that they are unlikely to comply with any order from this Court compelling them to provide discovery, instead indicating that they will pursue their meritless defenses through lengthy appeals. Thus, it could take several months (or longer) before PIF and Mr. Al-Rumayyan even begin producing discovery or choose to face the consequences of their noncompliance.”
Several LIV Golf players, including Phil Mickelson and Bryson DeChambeau, filed the federal antitrust lawsuit against the PGA Tour on Aug. 3. Mickelson and others later removed themselves as plaintiffs; LIV Golf, DeChambeau, Matt Jones and Peter Uihlein are the remaining plaintiffs.
The PGA Tour also filed a countersuit in which it alleged that LIV Golf interfered with its contracts with players.
In the joint motion, LIV Golf’s attorneys opposed pushing back discovery and trial dates. The lawyers argued that the current trial schedule “remains not only workable, but critical to the careers of the Player Plaintiffs and the viability of LIV as a legitimate competitor to the Tour.”
“With the ink barely dry on the Tour’s last schedule extension request the Tour returns with another attempt to blow it up and move the trial date set by this Court,” LIV Golf’s attorneys wrote in the motion. “Its strategy was transparent from the start: put up every conceivable roadblock to timely resolution; pursue discovery that knows no bounds; and seek any means possible to postpone facing trial on Plaintiffs’ claims. All the while, the Tour continues to harm both LIV and the Player Plaintiffs. The Tour has made clear that its conduct will not abate until it is enjoined.”
LIV Golf’s lawyers argued that the PGA Tour’s goal is clear: “It seeks to delay a merits adjudication as long as possible in the hopes that it can drive LIV out of the market and thereby avoid scrutiny of its illegal behavior.”
LIV Golf’s lawyers noted that LIV Golf players remain under suspension by the PGA Tour, which recently instituted a new rule that extends two-year bans to non-tour members who compete in LIV Golf tournaments.
“Under the Tour’s new regulations, any non-member — such as a college or foreign player — who participates in a LIV event in 2023 will be banned from the PGA Tour until January 2026 at the earliest,” LIV Golf’s lawyers wrote. “And the Tour has now entered into unlawful parallel agreements with several other tours around the world to exclude LIV. The Tour is exploiting litigation delay to choke off air to LIV and players.”