Legal Battle between LIV Golf and PGA Tour Moves to Federal Appeals Court

LIV Golf, the upstart professional golf league, and the PGA Tour are continuing their legal battle in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. At the heart of the dispute is whether LIV Golf can obtain information from the PGA Tour through subpoenas served in New York City, or whether the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) shields the Tour from litigation.

The case began in March 2020, when LIV Golf sued the PGA Tour in federal court in Miami, alleging that the Tour was using its market power to prevent players from participating in LIV Golf’s proposed league. LIV Golf claims that the PGA Tour is a monopoly that seeks to protect its interests at the expense of players who want to explore other opportunities.

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The PGA Tour denied LIV Golf’s allegations and filed a motion to dismiss the case, arguing that the court lacked jurisdiction over the matter. In September 2020, U.S. Magistrate Judge Susan van Keulen rejected the Tour’s motion to dismiss, finding that LIV Golf had presented a plausible claim that the Tour was engaged in anticompetitive conduct.

Since then, the case has focused on the discovery, with LIV Golf seeking information from the PGA Tour through subpoenas served on third parties, including a public-relations firm retained by the Tour. The PGA Tour has resisted LIV Golf’s requests, arguing that the FSIA shields it from litigation and that LIV Golf has not shown that it is entitled to the information it seeks.

In December 2020, Clout Public Affairs, the public-relations firm, filed a motion to quash LIV Golf’s subpoena, arguing that the court lacked jurisdiction over Clout because it is a foreign entity based in the United Kingdom. In response, LIV Golf argued that Clout was acting as an agent of the PGA Tour and that the court had jurisdiction over Clout as a result.

In February 2021, U.S. District Judge Kathleen Williams denied Clout’s motion to quash the subpoena, finding that LIV Golf had shown that Clout was acting as an agent of the PGA Tour and that the court had jurisdiction over Clout.

The Tour filed a motion to deny PIF's appeal, stating that PIF must be cited for contempt before they can appeal. PIF argues they are not subject to U.S. courts due to sovereign immunity. The appeal process in the 9th Circuit takes 6 to 12 months, with PIF's opening brief due on July 17.

Another ongoing dispute involves LIV Golf and the DP World Tour, with LIV Golf seeking discovery from European tour officials. The European circuit claims it is being dragged into a Florida court from its headquarters in England, over 4,000 miles away. The dispute continues.

The legal battle between LIV Golf and the PGA Tour is shaping up to be a complex and protracted dispute that may take years to resolve. As the case moves through the courts, golf fans and players will be watching closely to see how it affects the professional golf landscape.