Baffert Wants Bettors' Class-Action Suit Reassigned To Judge Who Already Dismissed Similar Case

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Three days after a New Jersey federal judge ordered a class-action lawsuit filed in 2021 by a group of bettors against Bob Baffert to be transferred to a federal court in Kentucky, the legal team for the Hall-of-Fame trainer filed a motion seeking the reassignment of the case to a different, specific Kentucky judge who last summer dismissed a similar case against Baffert.

Baffert's Feb. 23 filing in United States District Court (Western District of Kentucky) asked for the reassignment based on the following reasoning:

“The Plaintiffs in this case are a group of disgruntled gamblers who placed bets on the 2021 [GI] Kentucky Derby and lost. In this action, they attempt to do what courts throughout the country have routinely rejected: they seek to recoup their gambling losses through a myriad of frivolous claims,” the Baffert filing stated.

“Plaintiffs initially filed this case in the Central District of California, only to voluntarily dismiss it when threatened with a Motion to Dismiss and Rule 11 sanctions. Plaintiffs then refiled the case in the District of New Jersey and Baffert filed a Motion to Dismiss in New Jersey.

“Rather than addressing the merits of Baffert's Motion to Dismiss, the District Court in New Jersey issued an Opinion and Order [on Feb. 20] transferring the case to the Western District of Kentucky,” the filing continued.

“One of the primary reasons the Court in New Jersey transferred this case to the Western District of Kentucky is that an almost identical case was previously been decided by the Hon. David J. Hale. In the prior case, Mattera, et al. v. Robert A. Baffert, et al., Judge Hale considered similar claims made by a group of disgruntled gamblers against Baffert involving the same 2021 Kentucky Derby.

“In transferring this case to the Western District of Kentucky, the New Jersey Court relied heavily on the fact that Judge Hale had previously considered the similar matter and that judicial economy and the interests of justice 'strongly' favored this case being assigned to him,” the filing continued.

“In sum, the District of New Jersey transferred this case to the Western District of Kentucky because it was that Court's determination that this matter should be resolved by the 'same decision-maker' that ruled in the Mattera action. That decision maker is Judge Hale. The Opinion from the New Jersey Court repeatedly cites to the fact that the case at bar involves the

same allegations, facts and defendants as the matter previously decided by Judge Hale…

“Given that one of the primary reasons that this case was transferred to the Western District of Kentucky was because of Judge Hale's familiarity with the issues in this case, the interests of judicial economy and justice dictate that the matter be reassigned to him,” Baffert's filing concluded.

The plaintiffs in the case had yet to file a legal response to Baffert's motion as of 3 p.m. on Feb. 26.

The original version of the suit was led by Michael Beychok, the winner of the 2012 National Horseplayers Championship. It was filed four days after Baffert's May 9, 2021, disclosure that Medina Spirit had tested positive for betamethasone after crossing the finish wire first in the Derby.

The Beychok-led class-action group of horseplayers alleged they were cheated out of their property by Baffert on the basis that his betamethasone-positive trainee purportedly prevented them from cashing winning tickets on the runner-up.

Baffert has not only denied those allegations and asked for the case to be dismissed, but his legal team has also stated in court documents that the plaintiffs have twisted their case so far from reality that their alleged misstatements amount to libel.

The Mattera v. Baffert case that got tossed out of court by Hale on July 20, 2023, for failure to state a claim is currently being appealed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. That suit alleged negligence, breach of contract, and unjust enrichment because the plaintiffs' losing pari-mutuel bets on the 2021 Derby weren't honored as winners.

Last week, when transferring the case led by Beychok out of New Jersey, U.S. District Judge Michael Farbiarz wrote that, “[T]he Western District of Kentucky has already resolved, on the merits, a case that is closely similar to this one…. There are, in short, fundamental similarities between the [Mattera] case and this lawsuit…. Having the same court handle both cases would help ensure that like cases–and these are very much like cases–are treated alike. That is a fundamental goal of our justice system.”

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