A Famous Athlete’s Rico Case Outcome Holds Several Useful Lessons if You’re Defending a Rico Claim in Georgia

Poole Huffman, LLC

If you follow enough civil RICO cases, you’ll notice that many plaintiffs’ RICO claims lack merit, sometimes obviously so. Of course, even when the RICO claim that a plaintiff has aimed at your business is one of those claims long on bluster and short on merit, they are still potentially harmful to you and your business. It is vital to take the case seriously and get that claim thrown out as soon as possible to minimize the damage it can do to you. To get that done, make sure you have an experienced Atlanta civil RICO attorney on your side.

A case that unfolded in Miami last year was the rare civil RICO case to make mainstream headlines. The defendant was a famous superstar baseball player-turned-TV-broadcaster. The plaintiff was the player’s former brother-in-law.

The player and the plaintiff’s sister married in 2002. Not long afterward, the two men formed a real estate business that owned apartments purchased for a total of $300 million, according to a TheRealDeal report.

In 2008, the player’s marriage ended amid allegations of his infidelity. Not long after that, the player allegedly cut the plaintiff out of the business and, in the process, deprived him of earnings owed to him.

Among the claims the plaintiff advanced was a violation of the RICO Act. The trial court judge was skeptical, pointing out that the RICO Act is “one of the most abused statutes in civil litigation,” according to a Forbes report.

While that may be true, it’s also true that, as a defendant, you need to get that claim dismissed as soon as possible and it’s often incumbent on you to get it done, whether via motion to dismiss or a motion for summary judgment.

This can be important for a variety of reasons. For one thing, just the pre-trial discovery process can be damaging to you. For example, in the Miami case, the plaintiff, at various points, sought to introduce into the case a variety of alleged facts ranging from the player’s extramarital affairs to his use of performance-enhancing drugs during his playing days to his having gone into a hotel room with an exotic dancer. The judge kept all of this out of this case, but it gives you an idea of how a wide-ranging pre-trial discovery process can harm you and your business as a defendant.

Additionally, getting a civil RICO claim thrown out also will often facilitate ending the case more quickly. If that’s the only claim, then your victory on summary judgment or a motion to dismiss ends the case. Even if other claims remain, pruning the RICO claim may make the other side more reasonable in settlement negotiations, especially now that they have lost the chance to recover treble (a/k/a triple) damages under RICO.

So, How Do I Get a Dismissal or Summary Judgment in My Case?

One of the strongest arguments that many civil RICO defendants have is that the plaintiff failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted which, in federal court, is a violation of Rule 12(b)(6). This happens with frequency because the law imposes a lot of pleading rules on plaintiffs alleging a RICO claim. They must allege that you engaged in a “pattern” of racketeering activity and that you did that racketeering as part of an enterprise. If the plaintiff has alleged an enterprise that isn’t valid under the law, or if the alleged pattern of racketeering activity was too short to meet the law’s requirement of “continuity,” then you can win a Rule 12(b)(6) motion for failure to state a claim.

Additionally, RICO requires that the plaintiff allege that you engaged in underlying crimes known as “predicate acts.” A lot of RICO plaintiffs will rely on mail fraud and wire fraud. When the alleged predicate acts are fraud-based, the rules impose on the plaintiff an additional obligation to plead their case with “particularity” per Rule 9(b). This means their pleading has to include considerably more detail than is required for many other kinds of pleadings. A failure to plead fraud with particularity is another basis to get a RICO claim tossed.

In the baseball player’s case, he won by successfully arguing that the plaintiff had failed to state a claim for a RICO violation. This win clearly was a big one, as the plaintiff agreed to settle the case just a couple of weeks later.

When you find your business in the crosshairs of a RICO claim, now is not the time to panic. Now is the time to retain the experienced Atlanta civil RICO attorneys at Poole Huffman, LLC to be the powerful and diligent legal advocate you need. Contact our attorneys online or by calling 404-373-4008 to schedule your confidential consultation and get started putting the power of our RICO knowledge and experience to work for you.

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