Baffert Wants One Defendant in Defamation Suit Ruled in Default for Not Answering Complaint

Bob Baffert | Benoit

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The federal lawsuit initiated by trainer Bob Baffert that alleges civil extortion and defamation by two social media posters has been ordered to proceed to an “early neutral evaluation” (ENE) conference Jan. 10 that is designed to save time and money as a form of alternate dispute resolution before the case can proceed any further.

However, subsequent to that Nov. 29 ENE order, Baffert's attorney, Clark Brewster, asked the United States District Court (Southern District of California) on Dec. 4 to enter a default judgment against one of the defendants for failing to file an answer to the complaint in a timely manner.

Back on Sept. 27, Baffert filed a suit that asked for compensatory damages in excess of $75,000, plus an award of punitive damages “to deter similar conduct by Defendants and others” after purportedly suffering “mental anguish, anxiety, and duress Defendants have caused by virtue of their repeated threats to Baffert's business and family by means of their unlawful statements.”

As Baffert's complaint put it, “This lawsuit is the response to a series of escalating threats and criminal conduct by Defendants Justin Wunderler and Daniel DiCorcia against Plaintiffs Bob Baffert and his family. Over the past several months, Defendants have urged others to engage in violent behavior toward Baffert and his family, baselessly accused Baffert of criminal conduct, and attempted to extort Baffert and his family under threats to his business, reputation, and occupational license.”

Baffert's complaint stated that Wunderler “resides in Waretown, New Jersey, and is a part-time pari-mutuel Thoroughbred racing bettor. Mr. Wunderler has a substantial social media presence and following under the pseudonym 'Swifthitter.'”

The complaint also stated that DiCorcia “resides in Point Pleasant, New Jersey, is a part-time pari-mutuel Thoroughbred racing bettor, and operates an apparel store called 'BarShoeLife' that sells racing-related apparel. Mr. DiCorcia also has a substantial social media presence and following under various pseudonyms related to that “Bar Shoe” handle.

Baffert's complaint alleged that “[T]his escalating pattern of outrageous behavior is specifically intended to accrue more followers and personal monetary gain. Before the [GI] Belmont S. in New York, Mr. Wunderler specifically asked his followers to bring dangerous objects to hurl at Baffert and his family. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Wunderler posted a picture of Baffert's house in California and claimed that he 'slaughters horses on National TV.'”

The complaint further alleged that, “Mr. Wunderler and Mr. DiCorcia engaged in a conspiracy to extort money from Baffert, sent a text message demanding a certain sum of money, with specific payment instructions for wiring money, in exchange for a promise not to release information Defendants allege is so damaging that it will end Baffert's career.”

DiCorcia, according to the court's docket, filed a timely, one-page response Nov. 28 that denied Baffert's allegations and asked for the claims to be dismissed.

Wunderler, however, did not file any response after being served, according to the motion filed Monday by Brewster on behalf of Baffert.

That motion cited Rule 55(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which states that a party can be found in default if they fail to plead or otherwise defend themselves from a party seeking relief via lawsuit.

The motion stated that Baffert “respectfully request[s] the Clerk to enter the default of Defendant Justin Wunderler for failure to plead or otherwise defend this action within the permitted time to respond.”

The motion attached an affidavit of service and stated Baffert's legal team made “several attempts” to serve Wunderler personally with the complaint at his residence.

“The individual served was Mr. Wunderler's mother, who confirmed that Mr. Wunderler lived at the residence,” Baffert's motion for default stated. “Plaintiffs also mailed copies of the Complaint and Summons through regular and certified mail to Mr. Wunderler. Through his various posts and discussions on the social media platform 'X,' formerly known as Twitter, Mr. Wunderler has confirmed that he is aware of the Complaint and has reviewed its contents.”

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