Full Tilt Poker, and the companies which comprise it, have made their first official response to the lawsuit brought against them by former employee and well known professional player Clonie Gowan. The suit was issued in November 2008 after protracted discussions between the parties failed to reach an agreement. Gowan believed that she was owed money as a part owner of Tiltware, the company that provides the software for Full Tilt Poker. However the lack of a written contract, and Full Tilt Poker’s refusal to pay her for wearing their merchandise, has escalated into a court room battle. This week, Full Tilt’s lawyers have filed a motion demanding that the case be dismissed.
Clonie claims that in 2004 she was offered 1% ownership of Tiltware, on the condition that she become a celebrity representative for Full Tilt Poker. From that point on she was seen on the circuit wearing Full Tilt merchandise at live and televised events. In May of 2007 all the members of “Team Full Tilt” received distribution checks as payment for their sponsorship efforts – all of the members excepting Clonie Gowan. From this point Clonie began a series of negotiations with the company, while still continuing to wear their advertising apparel.
She also claims that as recompense Howard Lederer, who allegedly also owns a stake of the company, offered her $250,000 in November of 2007. Having estimated the value of the company at approximately $4 billion she rejected the offer as it did not approach the value of her %1 stake. She continued to work without pay up until November 2008 at which point she was informed that Full Tilt were dropping her from the roster of pros. It was at this point that she decided to take legal action against the company.
Her suit outlines claims that there was a Breach of Contract, to which end she desires damages of $40 million, a Breach of Fiduciary Duties, a Breach of Covenant of Good Faith and Fair Dealing, Unjust Enrichment and Fraud/Intentional Misrepresentation. As well including a number of companies in the suit she has also named 13 of her fellow FT Pros, who she claimed were also part owners of Tiltware, including: Howard Lederer, Phil Ivey, Erick Lindgren, Jennifer Harman, Mike Matusow and Patrick Antonious.
The targeting of professional players, and her conduct in general appears to have enraged some members of the professional poker playing community. Daniel Negreanu has been particularly vocal in his disapproval, claiming that “there is just no freaking way they’d offer her 1%.” Most ominously he stated that “I hope she ends up with what she deserves: nothing. She’s ruined herself with this move. I’ll never speak to her again, and I’m sure I’m not alone.”
The motion for dismissal, issued on Monday, challenges every claim made in Gowan’s suit, making a particular point of the vague and un-evidenced nature of her claims. Although it appears that the agreement was oral, FTP lawyers have noted that Gowan’s suit does not make clear whether there was a written or oral agreement. The lawyers were also at pains to absolve the 13 pros of any culpability, stating that this was a dispute between a company and an individual. The motion went as far as to claim that the suing of her colleagues was a “tactical” decision on Clonie Gowan’s part in order to drum up publicity for the law suit.
Excepting Breach of Contract, lawyers for Full Tilt argued for each claim as misunderstanding of the law of Clonie Gowan’s, and her lawyer’s, part. Further they argued that for each point there was a lack of evidence and clarity. They accepted that there may be a viable breach of contract suit, but claimed that Gowan would be required to submit further, and more detailed argumentation, in order for the case to get to court. It is not yet known at what time the decision whether or not to dismiss the case will be made.