Tiger Woods Comes Out at Yacht Builder

Monday, September 26, 2005
A federal court in Miami has ruled that golfer Tiger Woods’ lawsuit against Christensen Shipyards, Ltd. will proceed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida and that an order enjoining Christensen from the unauthorized use of Woods’ name or photographs of his boat will remain in place.

Woods filed his rights-of-publicity suit against Christensen last October in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida. The suit alleges that the luxury yacht manufacturer, based in Vancouver, improperly used Mr. Woods’ name, his wife’s name, and photographs of a yacht built for Woods in connection with the advertising and marketing of Christensen’s products. Mr. Woods also seeks injunctive relief from Christensen.

After a November 8, 2004 hearing, Chief Judge Howard J. Zloch entered a consent preliminary injunction prohibiting Christensen from improperly using Woods’ name and photographs of the yacht to promote and advertise the company.

On December 8, 2004, Christensen filed a motion asking the Court to dissolve the preliminary injunction and dismiss the case under a “forum selection clause” in the yacht contract opting for Washington State Court to resolve certain disputes. Ms. Woods is not a party to the yacht contract and is not bound by the “forum selection clause.” On September 23, 2005, after extensive briefing on the issues, Judge Zloch denied Christensen’s request and held that “the result of enforcement of the forum selection clause would be parallel proceedings in different forums on the same set of facts and legal issues…The Court finds that enforcement…would lead to…unreasonable and, arguably, unjust results…” In other words, enforcement of the clause would result in the unreasonable situation of requiring Woods to sue in Washington while his wife’s case would proceed in Florida.

The Woods’ attorney, J. Douglas Baldridge of Washington, D.C.-based Venable LLP, stated: “We firmly believe that the evidence will show Christensen violated and exploited the Woods’ valuable rights for the company’s own commercial gain. We are pleased with today’s well-reasoned ruling and look forward to presenting the merits of this case in Florida where the Woods reside.”

The case will remain in Florida and the preliminary injunction against Christensen remains in tact.

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