Don King Productions, Inc. v. Douglas, 90 Civ. 1203 (RWS).

CourtUnited States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
Citation742 F. Supp. 741
Docket NumberNo. 90 Civ. 1203 (RWS).,90 Civ. 1203 (RWS).
PartiesDON KING PRODUCTIONS, INC., Plaintiff, v. James "Buster" DOUGLAS, John P. Johnson, Golden Nugget, Inc., and the Mirage Casino-Hotel, Defendants.
Decision Date29 August 1990




Sidley & Austin, P.C., New York City (Robert W. Hirth, of counsel), for plaintiff.

Stephen E. Kaufman, P.C., New York City (Stephen E. Kaufman, of counsel), Hunterton & Naylor, P.C., Las Vegas, Nev. (C. Stanley Hunterton, of counsel), for defendants James "Buster" Douglas and John P. Johnson.

Warshaw Burstein Cohen Schlesinger & Kuh, New York City (Robert Fryd, of counsel), for defendants The Mirage Casino-Hotel and Golden Nugget, Inc.


SWEET, District Judge.

This action is brought by plaintiff Don King Productions, Inc. ("DKP") against defendants James "Buster" Douglas ("Douglas") and his manager John P. Johnson ("Johnson") for breach of contract, and against Golden Nugget, Inc. and The Mirage Casino-Hotel (collectively, "Mirage") for tortious interference with contract. The Mirage has asserted a counterclaim seeking a declaration that the contracts between DKP and Douglas are invalid. Before the court is DKP's motion pursuant to Rule 56, Fed.R.Civ.P., for summary judgment on the breach of contract count of its complaint; DKP's motion to dismiss the counterclaim of GNI pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) for lack of standing; Douglas and Johnson's motion pursuant to Rule 56 for summary judgment dismissing the complaint; and Mirage's motion pursuant to Rule 56 for summary judgment dismissing the complaint. For the reasons stated below, the summary judgment motions of DKP, Mirage and Douglas and Johnson are denied. The motion of DKP to dismiss Mirage's counterclaim is granted.

The Parties

The parties to this proceeding and their various causes are somewhat notorious within the confines of the sporting and gaming world. The unacquainted (those who need a program to tell the players) are referred to the prior opinion of this court dated April 4, 1990, which denied the motion of the defendants to dismiss the complaint on jurisdictional grounds (or alternatively, to transfer it to Nevada), except as against former plaintiff Trump Plaza Associates, whose companion complaint was dismissed for want of jurisdiction. 735 F.Supp. 522.

Prior and Parallel Proceedings

This breach of contract and tortious interference action by DKP against Johnson, Douglas and Mirage (the "New York action") was commenced in this district at 10:48 a.m., Eastern Standard Time, on February 22, 1990. The prior day, at 4:58 p.m., Pacific Standard Time, in the District Court of Clark County, Nevada, an action was filed by Douglas, Johnson and Mirage against DKP, requesting a declaratory judgment that Douglas and Johnson were not bound by their contracts with DKP and that Mirage had not tortiously interfered with those contracts.

By order to show cause of March 7, 1990, DKP sought in this forum a preliminary injunction order enjoining Douglas and Johnson from acting in any manner inconsistent with DKP's asserted contractual right exclusively to promote boxing bouts engaged in by Douglas. The show cause order also sought expedited discovery and the setting of an early trial date. At the order to show cause hearing of March 9, 1990, expedited discovery was granted, a discovery and motion schedule established, and a date of April 16, 1990 set down for a consolidated trial of the complaint and motion for preliminary injunction.

Pursuant to the approved schedule, Johnson, Douglas and the Mirage on March 13 filed motions to dismiss or transfer to Nevada the DKP complaint (and the Trump Plaza Associates complaint that had been subsequently filed), returnable on March 16, 1990. The motions were argued on that date, and decided in the noted April 4 Opinion granting the defendants' motion to dismiss the complaint of Trump Plaza Associates and denying their motion to dismiss or transfer the DKP action.

Meanwhile, the Nevada state court action was removed by DKP to the United States District Court, District of Nevada, on diversity grounds, and assigned to the Honorable Howard D. McKibben. A remand motion followed. On or about March 19, 1990, the Nevada federal court denied the motion to remand the action to state court. The federal court also on that date established a discovery schedule, and set the matter for hearing on April 9, 1990, i.e., one week in advance of the previously-assigned date for trial of the action set in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.1

The April 9 date set in the Nevada action proved to be premature for some or all of the parties. Accordingly, three or four days before that date a stipulation of the parties was entered in that action continuing the trial to April 23. Simultaneously, a stipulation was submitted in the New York action, and was "so ordered" on April 6, 1990, providing that the trial scheduled to take place on April 16 in New York would be continued to a date convenient to the court and after April 30, 1990.2

As it turned out, the rescheduled April 23 date for trial of the Nevada action also proved untenable. Three days after the parties' stipulation to that date, on April 9, 1990, on the Nevada court's own motion, an order was entered vacating the trial setting that had three days before been "trailed" to April 23. The order continued the Nevada trial date another month, to May 21, 1990.

Further jockeying back and forth by the parties over the trial dates ensued. DKP sought a conference before this court for the asserted purpose of fixing a firm, prompt date for the consolidated trial on the preliminary injunction motion (which had been brought on by order to show cause on March 7) and on the complaint. At conference before this court on April 23, and consistent with the court's understanding of the parties' New York stipulation (which provided for rescheduling of the adjourned April 16 New York trial to a convenient date "not before April 30, 1990"), the New York trial was set for May 1, 1990.

Following that conference but on the same day, counsel for Douglas and Johnson arranged an emergency telephone conference before the Nevada court during the course of which Judge McKibben indicated that he had not yet ruled on DKP's pending application to transfer the action to New York but was disinclined to grant the motion and in all probability would retain the case. The court further indicated that if it determined there had been a breach of the parties' Nevada stipulation, it would consider advancing the May 21 Nevada trial date to April 30, the day before the May 1 trial setting in New York.

Apprised by the parties of the Nevada court's predicted course of ruling on the transfer motion, this court held a conference on April 25 to again address the trial setting. For the purpose of providing all parties with a date certain for trial, and in view of indications that the urgency of DKP's request for prompt hearing of its preliminary injunction motion had abated, the trial setting in New York was adjourned to the date of the Nevada trial— May 21—the court further deferring to the Nevada court the determination of the geographic location of the trial to be held on that date.

Following that conference and in accordance with the briefing schedule previously agreed to in the New York action, the parties brought the instant motions, each returnable on April 27, 1990. The motions were orally argued on the return date, and taken under submission as of that date. An amicus curiae brief of Evander Holyfield was also permitted to be filed on that date.

The Facts

The following facts for purposes of these motions are undisputed. Douglas, a professional boxer, and Johnson, his manager, both citizens of Ohio, entered into a boxing promotion agreement dated December 31, 1988 (the "Promotional Agreement" or "Agreement"), with DKP, a New York corporation engaging in boxing promotions with its principal place of business in New York. Douglas was paid $25,000 by DKP as consideration for entering into the Promotional Agreement.

A. Negotiation of the Agreement

The Agreement was negotiated on behalf of Douglas by his manager Johnson and his attorney Stephen Enz, who had represented Douglas and Johnson in past contractual dealings with DKP.3 The arms-length negotiations were conducted with King, and DKP's counsel, by correspondence between Ohio, New York and Nevada, and to some degree by telephone between Ohio (where Douglas, Johnson and Enz reside) and New York (where DKP's office and counsel are located) and between Ohio and California and Las Vegas, Nevada (locations at which King was also present during part of the period of the negotiations). No face-to-face negotiations took place. Instead, following initial correspondence back and forth, a draft agreement was drawn up by Enz, working from the prior promotional agreement DKP and Douglas had contracted, apparently was signed by Douglas and Johnson in Ohio, and was then sent to King. King made certain changes to the draft, and executed the Agreement, which was sent by his counsel in New York to Enz in Ohio.4 Douglas and Johnson there executed the Agreement. Their counsel thereafter sent one of the final copies to King in Las Vegas, where a fight he was promoting was about to take place.

B. Terms of the Promotional Agreement

The Agreement provides DKP with the "sole and exclusive right to secure and arrange all professional boxing bouts" of Douglas for the term of the Agreement. DKP in turn obligates itself to promote not less than four bouts requiring Douglas' services during the annual period ending February 25, 1990, and, for two years' thereafter, no less than three bouts per year. Such bouts were to be on dates and at sites designated by DKP, and against opponents designated by...

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