BY MARCY SHORTUSE - The injunction filed against Save The Tarpon by the Professional Tarpon Tournament Series earlier this year was dismissed in a Charlotte County court on Wednesday, Aug. 28, as the court found that PTTS claims against the individual members of the group were deficient in nature.
According to Brian Beason, a lawyer with the Port Charlotte law firm of Frohlich, Gordon and Beason, there were actually two hearings held on the matter.
“The first hearing was based on the motion to dismiss,” Beason said. “The court found that claims against individual defendants would be dismissed, but the court has allowed them (the PTTS) the opportunity to amend the complaint and to fix the deficiencies.”
Silver King Entertainment, Inc., the company that operates the PTTS and is best known for their televised “reality show” fishing tournaments, and their legal counsel have 20 days to file the amended complaint.
“The court agreed with us that the complaint is deficient as to the allegations against the individual defendants, but that there is enough evidence to continue on with the case against Save The Tarpon as an organization. In other words, assuming their allegations are true the court had to decide whether or not they had a legal base to file a lawsuit. And they decided yes as to Save The Tarpon, but no to the directors.
“And I would be surprised if they don’t file an amended complaint.”
The second hearing was based on the fact that Beason’s firm filed a Motion to Compel for disclosure of documents by Silver King Entertainment, and they were not produced.
“We had filed the Motion to Compel asking for documents including tax returns, financial statements, contracts with sponsors and internal governing documents,” Beason said. “They failed to provide those by the deadline set forth in the rules. Now the court has ordered them to provide the documents no later than next Friday, and the judge ordered them (Silver King) to pay $200 to the defendants (Save The Tarpon) for the fee in bringing forth the complaint.”
Silver King Entertainment, Inc. filed the injunction against Save The Tarpon, a local, grass-roots organization whose directive is to protect the tarpon of Boca Grande Pass and surrounding estuaries, in April.
Those named in the injunction include Save The Tarpon Tom McLaughlin, Capt. Frank Davis, Capt. Chris Frohlich, Richard Hirsch, Capt. Rhett Morris, Capt. Walton “Tommy” Locke Jr., Capt. Mark Futch and (now former) Save the Tarpon Executive Director Lew Hastings.
The claim stated that Save The Tarpon cost Silver King Entertainment and the PTTS more than $500,000 in sponsorship, television advertising, entry fees and more. This is based on the fact that Save The Tarpon has drawn attention to fishing methods used by PTTS anglers in Boca Grande Pass such as, but not limited to, fishing techniques that are considered by some to be harmful to the fish (such as the use of “snagging” lures) and relentless herding of the fish during their televised tournaments.
Within the injunction it stated that Save The Tarpon “ ... raised tens of thousands of dollars for its stated purpose of bringing financial pressure on PTTS sponsors, and achieving its main goal of bringing about the end of the PTTS in Boca Grande, and use this money to mount a concerted campaign against the PTTS and to fund the advertising of its own member fishing guides.”
Several companies, such as Costa del Mar, Tires Plus and Miller’s Ale House, have pulled their sponsorship from the PTTS tournaments in the last year or so. Many of those businesses, though, have tried to clarify that their reason for doing so was based more on a lack of revenue return on their advertising dollars, and not because of anything that Save The Tarpon has alleged.
On April 26 the injunction was filed with the Sarasota County court system. In it Silver King Entertainment claims, “The complaint seeks injunctive relief against the defendants for tortious interference in contractual relationships, tortious interference with business relationships, civil conspiracy and defamation.”
At that time Beason and his firm objected to the venue in which the injunction was filed (Sarasota County), because none of the parties involved live there. It was eventually turned back to a Charlotte County court.
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