The owner of America’s most recent challenger for the horseracing’s Triple Crown: American Pharoah (sic), finds himself embroiled in another lawsuit that stems from an alleged failure to pay a gambling debt. Ahmed Zayat, whose horse has already won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, finds himself the subject of a libel suit based on comments he made in connection with a breach of contract lawsuit brought over an alleged $1.65M gambling debt. The breach of contract/collection suit brought by Howard Rubinsky and filed in March of 2014, is suddenly gaining media traction in the run up to this Saturday’s final leg of the Triple Crown: The Belmont Stakes. If American Pharoah emerges from the field victorious at Belmont, he will be the first horse to complete the Triple Crown feat since Secretariat demolished the field in stunning fashion 37 years ago.
Interestingly, the libel suit is being brought by one of the lawyers representing Rubinsky in the action over the alleged gambling debt. In comments made to and widely circulated by the Associated Press, Zayat called the breach of contract claims, “a scam from A to Z” and “total fiction.” The libel suit claims Zayat’s words suggest the attorney filing the suit violated Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. In other comments made to the website, Observer.com, Zayat called the Rubinsky action a “fraud,” a term deemed to be libel per se because it accused Rubinsky of a crime, in the action brought by J. Joseph Bainton. Bainton seeks punitive damages in an amount no less than $10 million. The suit was filed June 1, 2015 in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey.
If the court sides with Bainton, it might spell the end of a long-standing practice in which aggrieved attorneys stand tall on the courthouse steps and deride the action brought against their upstanding citizen client. Another interesting aspect of this case, should it survive summary judgment, is whether the court will delineate comments made about the claim and whether they apply individually to the attorney who brought the action. We have to wait and see, but in the meantime, better spend your time enjoying American Pharoah’s run for glory.