Today, Hiatt and her attorney Paul Sorrell fought back, filing a lawsuit in the LA County Superior Court in Santa Monica against WPT Enterprises and Steve Lipscomb for “Intentional Interference with Prospective Economic Advantage.” Hiatt is seeking monetary damages for the WPT’s conduct as well as declaratory and injunctive relief that will prohibit the WPT from “engaging in any conduct seeking to prevent or prohibit [Hiatt] from seeking employment with a third party other than WPT.”
According to Hiatt’s complaint, the WPT and Lipscomb are “[c]iting an illegal and unenforceable non-complete clause in a draft of an agreement that [Hiatt] never signed” and “have threatened [Hiatt] and her future employers with legal action in the event that [she] appears on poker-themed television program produced by someone other than WPT.”
In connection with the suit, Hiatt obtained today a temporary restraining order “enjoining and restraining [WPT and its representatives] from seeking to prevent or prohibit [Shana] from seeking employment with NBC in connection with appearances in two poker-themed television shows by claiming or asserting the existence of a non-competitive or other exclusivity agreement.”
Next up will be a preliminary injunction hearing on October 17, 2006 in which the WPT will have to show cause for lifting the restraining order while the lawsuit is pending.
In a statement to Wicked Chops Poker, Hiatt’s attorney stated:
“It is unfortunate that WPT has conducted itself in a manner that Ms. Hiatt contends is unlawful and in violation of clear California law. We intend to hold WPT and its principal Steve Lipscomb fully responsible for their actions.”
It’s worth noting that California law here strongly disfavors non-compete clauses in employment contracts as a matter of public policy, and the controlling statute here is Section 16600 of the California Business and Professions Code, which says:
Except as provided in this chapter, every contract by which anyone is restrained from engaging in a lawful profession, trade, or business of any kind is to that extent void.
We’ll keep you posted as this story develops, and in the meantime, refresh your memory of how much you appreciated Hiatt in front of the camera doing what she does best with the video below.
If you’re interested in obtaining a copy of Hiatt’s complaint, contact us.