And on it goes.
On Tuesday, New York State Supreme Court justice Eileen Bransten partially rejected the PGA Tour’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed by Vijay Singh last May as a result of his experience in the Tour’s Anti-Doping Program last year. The net result of the ruling is Singh’s lawsuit can continue, with the PGA Tour given 20 days to respond in brief to the aspects of the case held up on review.
In total, Singh and lawyers Peter Ginsberg and Jeff Rosenblum had offered nine separate causes for action in its original filing. Justice Bransten outright dismissed four of the nine, keeping three and effectively merging two together to create four separate aspects of the suit on which it will be judged moving forward.
The four causes for action can be couched around the following:
- Per Anti-Doping Program rules, the PGA Tour had the right to hold Singh’s tournament earnings in escrow while his case for admitting to ingesting deer-antler spray (with active, banned insulin-like ingredient IGF-1) was adjudicated. However, Justice Bransten suggested the Tour began placing Singh’s money in escrow with the ’13 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, which was played before Singh was notified by the Tour of proposed punitive actions against him, which included placing earnings into escrow. In total, $99,980 was placed into escrow. However, Singh made no money for the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
- In the Tour’s Anti-Doping Program Manual, it is established that commissioner Tim Finchem has broad powers to decide on a case-by-case basis if and how to sanction players for violations, as well as if those violations (in certain cases) are to even be made public. Singh’s accusation that Mark Calcavecchia was not similarly punished for, like Singh, admitting to using deer-antler spray was good enough to suggest a difference in treatment and that the Tour did not act in “good faith and fair dealing.”
- The Tour’s membership renewal form was also an issue Justice Bransten touched on in her ruling. Bransten noted a difference between the Anti-Doping Program Manual and the membership renewal form, the latter which claimed players would be prohibited from seeking legal relief outside of the program and its agreed-to arbitration channel.
- The difference, Bransten explained, was language in the Program Manual suggesting the arbitration process focused on the urine testing of players. In Singh’s case, his urine was not tested, but rather a sample of deer-antler spray was. Since his recourse in that situation was not clearly defined — in fact, conflicting — Singh had a “lack of recourse” in his case.
- That lack of recourse led to Bransten rejecting the Tour’s hope for court application of the “doctrine of judicial noninterference,” which the Tour claimed entitled them to be somewhat immune from court action because of its established program guidelines. In part, Singh’s claims are unique compared to the likes of Doug Barron, the only player the PGA Tour has publicly announced a suspension for under the Anti-Doping Program, because Singh seeks relief from the conduct of the PGA Tour to reach its sanction decision, not the sanctions themselves.
Other highlights of the ruling include:
- Bransten defined the fiduciary responsibility the PGA Tour has to Singh as inherent to the Tour administering its Anti-Doping program in “good faith and fair dealing.” However, she rejected a separate, unique fiduciary responsibility between Singh and the Tour outside of that agreement.
- Singh’s notion that the PGA Tour was “intentionally exposing him to public ridicule” was struck down, with Bransten saying Singh was unable to establish any behavior meeting the “extreme and outrageous” standard, somewhat implying Singh brought any response on himself.
A discovery hearing in the case is scheduled for March 18.