Shana Hiatt, host of the World Poker Tour (WPT) Seasons 1-3, filed a lawsuit against the WPT Friday in the Los Angeles Superior Court. In the lawsuit, she is seeking injunctive relief and punitive damages for alleged "intentional interference with economic advantage."
According to the lawsuit, World Poker Tour Enterprises, Inc. (WPTE), and Steve Lipscomb specifically, illegally interfered with Hiatt pursuing other employment in the television industry. Hiatt's representatives were approached by NBC in connection with a possible position for Hiatt on one of the television studio's poker shows, but were later told by the WPTE that Hiatt had signed a non-compete clause with them.
Hiatt says she never signed a non-compete clause and it would be illegal and unenforceable under California law anyway. The clause is in violation of California's Business and Professions Code Section 16600 which states, "Except as provided in this chapter, every contract by which anyone is restrained from engaging in a lawful profession, trade, or business of any kind is to that extent void."
Hiatt originally entered into an agreement with WPTE in 2003 to host the WPT. It was a one term agreement with five options. WPTE exercised two of those options to keep Hiatt on as the host. According to the complaint, after that Hiatt went to Lipscomb saying she needed to leave the show because of harassment she was being put through with the company, and Lipscomb agreed that WPTE would allow her to leave.
The two parties were negotiating the possibility of a written release and settlement, but Hiatt claims she never reviewed in detail or signed any written release or non-compete clause.
Hiatt has since been replaced by Courtney Friel who hosted the WPT for a season before Sabina Gadecki took over as host.
The suit is seeking immediately injunctive relief that will allow Hiatt to seek employment as a hostess for NBC, or any other television hosting opportunity that may come along. She is also seeking compensatory damages as well as punitive or exemplary damages.
The initial hearing in the matter is scheduled for Oct. 17.
Poker Pros to Sue WPT