published Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

Chattanooga Billiard Club's lawyer seeks to have poker suit folded

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    The Chattanooga Billiard Club is located on Jordan Drive in Chattanooga, Tenn.
    Photo by Allison Carter /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

The attorney representing a group of poker players who sued over the cancellation of a tournament must be dismissed since he played in the games, an opposing attorney says.

Lawyer Hoyt Samples filed a class-action lawsuit in July after the Chattanooga Billiard Club halted a series of weekly and monthly poker tournaments at the club. The six men who filed the suit are seeking money damages that triple the amount they spent on food and beverages while playing cards at the 119 Jordan Drive club and $50,000 in punitive damages.

But attorney Jerrold Farinash, who represents the club, filed a motion to boot Samples off the case and strike the lawsuit's class-action status. Farinash said Monday that Samples' involvement as one of the players presents a conflict of interest and means he should not also represent the plaintiffs.

His court filing also argues that the case should not be a class action because class-action cases are not allowed under the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act.

Farinash's motion was scheduled to be heard Monday in Hamilton County Chancery Court but was moved when both sides agreed they needed more time. The next hearing is scheduled for Nov. 12 before Chancellor Jeffrey Atherton.

Samples did not return calls seeking comment Monday.

For at least two years, the club held weekly "Texas Hold 'Em" tournaments, with the winner receiving a Chattanooga Billiard Club gift certificate based on the number of participants, which numbered between 70 and 100 players each week.

The club contributed $1 for each player in the weekly tournaments and the money was divided and held for the weekly, monthly and annual tournament winners, according to court documents.

According to court documents, the winner of the weekly games received a gift certificate to the club while monthly and annual winners took home certified checks.

In the lawsuit, Samples claims that the club benefited financially from food and drink sales and induced players to come to the weekly tournaments to qualify for the annual tournament, which advertised "substantial cash prizes."

He claims that at least 70 people were harmed by the tournament cancellation so it qualifies the group as a "class" for the purposes of a class-action lawsuit.

He also played in the tournaments, making the finals in the October 2011 tournament.

Chattanooga Billiard Club owner Phil Windham told players this spring that he would not hold any more tournaments after the scheduled August 2012 tournament.

"This is the last week of poker. I am not going to put out any more money for poker. It is my money and I am going to keep it and there will be no Annual Tournament," Windham said, according to court documents.

Contact staff writer Todd South at tsouth@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6347.

about Todd South...

Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...

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