Wednesday, September 27, 2017

District Judge denies Motions for Judgment as a Matter of Law and for a New Trial in Wilder v. World of Boxing, LLC

Today, District Judge Andrew Carter issued an opinion denying World of Boxing, LLC's Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law and Motion for a New Trial in the Deontay Wilder v. World of Boxing, LLC ("WOB") case in the United States District Court, Southern District of New York.  Judge Carter remarked in his opinion that WOB was "a defeated combatant unwilling to accept a sound jury verdict."

This case involved the alleged ingesting of the banned substance, Meldonium, by heavyweight contender Alexander Povetkin ahead of his scheduled world title bout against WBC Heavyweight Champion Deontay Wilder, which was slated for May 21, 2016 in Moscow, Russia.  Nine days before the scheduled bout, it was announced that VADA, which conducted the testing for the fight, had determined that Povetkin's April 27 urine sample had tested positive for Meldonium.  Wilder, after receiving this news, cancelled his flight to the site of bout.  Wilder's promoter DBE had negotiated to have Wilder's purse put in escrow ahead of the bout.

Wilder eventually sued WOB for breach of the bout agreement (for failing to deliver Povetkin), breach of the escrow agreement (for failing to instruct the escrow agent to pay Wilder) and requested a declaratory judgment (instructing the escrow agent to release the funds to Wilder).  WOB counter-sued claiming breach of the bout agreement (for Wilder failing to show for the fight), breach of the escrow agreement (for Wilder's improperly instructing escrow agent to not release the funds), breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing (for Wilder acting to pressure WBC to cancel the bout) and defamation (for Wilder's statements to the press about Povetkin's alleged use of PEDs).

The case was set for an expedited trial on one issue only: whether Povetkin ingested Meldonium on or after January 1, 2016.  The January 1, 2016 date is significant because that is the date WADA put Meldonium on the banned substance list.  Part of Povetkin's argument was that he had legally ingested Meldonium in 2015 and that the positive test in April 2016 was only from remnants of his ingestion when it was legal.  In fact, there were three urine samples that Povetkin gave prior to this positive test (April 7, April 8 and April 11) that showed results similar to positive tests for Meldonium but were determined by VADA not to be Meldonium.  The experts on both sides of the case argued that those three tests supported their side's arguments.

On March 6, 2017, after a three-day trial, the jury took only 32 minutes of deliberation to find that Povetkin had indeed ingested Meldonium on or after January 1, 2016.   WOB filed the motions for Judgment as a Matter of Law and for a New Trial within a week of the verdict.

In the opinion issued today, in regards to the motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law, Judge Carter stated that the jury had heard "two interpretations of complex scientific evidence" and that "Wilder's expert testified that Povetkin's April 7, April 8, and April 11 urine samples contained a compound similar in weight to Meldonium, but [Wilder's expert] was adamant that Meldonium was not present.  [WOB]'s expert testified that Povetkin's April 7, April 8, and April 11 urine samples contained Meldonium, but a compound with similar weight interfered with Meldonium.  The jury was free to choose."  Judge Carter reasoned that even if the jury believed WOB's expert, it could still have found that Povetkin took Meldonium on or after January 1, 2016.  Judge Carter also held that the jury heard Povetkin's testimony that he only took "vitamins" from his trainer and chose to reject his testimony.  Thus, the Court held that the evidence supported the verdict and denied WOB's motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law.

Regarding the Motion for a New Trial, Judge Carter stated that WOB's "attempt to re-litigate expert testimony only underscores that the jury had to pick one expert's theory on Povetkin's samples or the other."  Judge Carter also rejected WOB's attempts to enter newly discovered evidence (a study finding that Meldonium may stay in the blood for up to 147 days and WADA's notice in May 2017 that only Meldonium over 100 ng/ml should be reported (Povetkin tested at 72 ng/ml)).  Carter found that the study was released on the first day of trial and could have been uncovered then and that WADA's notice was not to be considered because the bout agreement was executed in April 2016 under WADA's 2016 standards.  Thus, Judge Carter denied that Motion for a New Trial.

Judd Burstein, Wilder's counsel, has previously stated that once WOB's post-trial motions were denied, he would file a motion for summary judgment seeking damages and serve a motion for sanctions unless WOB dropped the defamation case.  We will continue to track how this case proceeds.

See Judge Carter's opinion below:


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