Jockey Club wants Cordish suit in Arundel

The Maryland Jockey Club has filed a motion to move a $600 million lawsuit by the Cordish Cos. to Anne Arundel County from Baltimore City.

The jockey club, along with Laurel Park and Pimlico Race Course co-owners Penn National Gaming Inc. and MI Developments Inc., are named as co-defendants in the suit.

Also named are the owners and trustees of an Indiana casino that Cordish built. The suit, filed Feb. 15, charges that they conspired to prevent Cordish from building a casino in Anne Arundel County. The transfer motion was filed March 25.

Cordish, headed by President David S. Cordish, is requesting $300 million in compensatory damages and $300 million in punitive damages.

The jockey club said in a memorandum in support of the case transfer that the lawsuit has nothing to do with Baltimore City, and that Cordish’s charges relate to last year’s referendum case in Anne Arundel County.

“There’s no basis for factoring law to be in Baltimore City,” Alan M. Rifkin of Rifkin, Livingston, Levitan & Silver LLC, attorney for the Maryland Jockey Club, said in an emailed statement. “This case is no more than the third bite at the same apple. … The Cordish Cos. or their surrogates have already lost twice in Anne Arundel County and their efforts to try their luck with a different forum are transparent.”

Robert J. Weltchek, of Weltchek, Mallahan & Weltchek, an attorney for The Cordish Cos., said he, along with Albert J. Mezzanotte Jr. and Edward M. Buxbaum, both of Whiteford Taylor Preston LLP, and William H. “Billy” Murphy Jr. of The Murphy Firm, are in the middle of drafting a reply to the memorandum.

“We are vigorously opposing that position,” Weltchek said. “The appropriate venue is Baltimore City, because all the plaintiffs and attorneys are located there, and for many other reasons that will be articulated in our pleadings.”

A hearing has been scheduled for May 2 on the motion of the transfer.

Cordish’s defamation and invasion of privacy suit alleges that the Maryland Jockey Club conspired with the owners of the Indiana Downs casino to tarnish Cordish’s reputation before last year’s casino location referendum in Anne Arundel County.

Last year, two lawsuits were litigated in Anne Arundel County, the memorandum said. They related to the ballot certification of the petition by the county’s Board of Supervisors of Elections, and that the group Citizens Against Slots at the Mall was not the lawful sponsor of the petition, among other allegations, documents said.

According to the suit, Indiana Downs agreed to retain Cordish subsidiary PPE Indiana to help develop and manage its casino, Indiana Live!, in 2007 for a portion of the facility’s revenue.

The Cordish lawsuit also contends that advertising paid for by the Maryland Jockey Club created the impression that Cordish Cos. owned the Indiana facility and was losing money in its role with Indiana Live!

The jockey club’s memorandum states that these allegations have already been tried in Anne Arundel County, and are inflammatory allegations of fraud in connection with the petition drive. The memorandum also said many key witnesses and documentary evidence are based in Anne Arundel, therefore the logical location of the case would be in that county.

Maryland Jockey Club officials may want the case out of Baltimore City because they think they’ll fare better with a jury trial in another jurisdiction, said Steven Silverman, an attorney with Silverman, Thompson, Slutkin & White, who is not involved in the case.

“Baltimore City jurors are inclined to award greater damages in court cases than surrounding jurisdictions,” Silverman said. He said the club might have a harder time winning the transfer to Anne Arundel County because it also does business in Baltimore City at Pimlico Race Course.

Cordish broke ground on Maryland Live! casino near Arundel Mills mall in January.

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