Individual Defendants to Remain Part of Guild Suit, For Now

For now, four jockeys and the chief executive of a California management firm running the Jockeys' Guild will remain part of a wrongful termination and slander suit filed by former Guild national manager, John Giovanni.

After an hour-long hearing on Friday, Fayette County Circuit Court Judge Mary Noble did not take any action on a motion to dismiss jockeys Chris McCarron, Robert Colton, Mike McCarthy, and Tomey Swan on the grounds that Kentucky has no jurisdiction over them. Also seeking dismissal was L. Wayne Gertmenian, a Pepperdine University economics professor who is the president and chief executive of Matrix Capital Associates, which assumed control of the Guild in June.

Giovanni claims in his suit that he was illegally forced out as national manager, a position he held for 14 years. He is seeking the salary due him for the remainder a two-year contract ending Dec. 31, 2002, and punitive damages for slanderous comments allegedly made against him by some of the defendants.

Susan Mohler, the attorney representing the jockeys and Gertmenian, argued that her clients should not be tried in Kentucky because Giovannis allegations of slander apply to the actions of individuals, and therefore, must be addressed in their states of residence. McCarrons home is in California. Colton and McCarthy live in Delaware, and Swan lives in Oklahoma.

Mohler also said they cannot be sued individually for actions taken as members of the Guilds' executive committee because those are considered the actions of the corporation.

"We understand that Mr. Giovanni wants to bring them all together in one suit because it is convenient...but convenience is no basis for personal jurisdiction," Mohler said.

Brad Cowgill, Giovanni's attorney, argued the jockeys should be tried in Kentucky because their decisions affected the future of a Kentucky-based corporation with a multi-million dollar budget. And even if their alleged defamatory comments were made as individuals, the comments were designed to eventually effect how the Guild operated.

"These individuals wanted to have control over an organization that influences their industry because they wanted to make a difference in their industry," Cowgill said. "It is their desire to have control that went amiss."

Noble agreed, to some extent, with both of the attorneys arguments.

"If it is their position acting as executive directors that caused the loss of employment, if that is the focus, then you should be able to bring that all under one suit," Noble said. "If you are only talking about defamation, then they need to be sued as individuals."

She directed the attorneys to finish their depositions, then sort through each of Giovanni's allegations and make their cases as to how the charge affects each defendant as a Guild officer or as an individual.

"The motion (to dismiss) may be upheld for some and dismissed for some," Noble said. "I'm asking you to do more analysis."