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News » Talks could settle lawsuits against Heat's Wade

Talks could settle lawsuits against Heat's Wade

Talks could settle lawsuits against Heat's WadeMIAMI (AP) - Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade's legal team hopes that talks beginning Wednesday help him resolve legal disputes that could otherwise be an off-court distraction if they drag into the season.

The mediation session could ultimately result in settlement of several lawsuits claiming he wrongly walked away from outside business ventures. Without a quick resolution to the legal proceedings - or their postponement until after the season - the team argues Wade could be risking injury by focusing on them instead of training.

Wade and his lawyers are set to begin talks with former partners suing him over a failed chain of sports memorabilia restaurants and a charter school operation for inner-city kids that opened successfully despite Wade's absence. The lawsuits claim combined maximum damages against Wade in the neighborhood of $150 million.

With the NBA season around the corner, it's clear the Heat want to avoid legal distractions for Wade, their franchise player and last year's leading NBA scorer. In the schools case, the Heat say Wade won't be able to stay in shape if he's tied up in legal proceedings for weeks during the season.

"Robbing Dwayne (sic) Wade of rest time, utilizing every waking moment between games, practices and arbitration hearing, and long travel in between, would severely compromise his physical capacity, and subject him to an increased risk of serious injury," the Heat said in a motion filed by attorney Alan Fein. "There is no compelling need to subject Dwayne Wade to these risks."

Another star has faced a similar juggling act but for different reasons. During the 2003 season, the Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant was embroiled in a rape case that sometimes required him to appear in court during the day and then fly to a game that night, even during the playoffs. That case was eventually dropped.

The Heat want an arbitrator in the charter schools case to wait until the NBA season ends - as late as next summer if the Heat do well in the playoffs - rather than going forward as scheduled in late November.

That might not matter if the broader mediation session that begins Wednesday brings most of Wade's legal troubles to a close. It's not clear how long the talks could last.

Wade attorney Michael Kreitzer said the Heat star wants all issues on the table. The mediation session was ordered by a federal judge in an antitrust case accusing Wade of seeking a South Florida monopoly on his sports memorabilia, the sales of which were to be a cornerstone of the failed D. Wade's Place restaurant chain.

"We simply suggested, and the other side agreed, that if there was going to be a discussion about settlement, it made sense for the discussion to encompass all of the cases," Kreitzer said in an e-mail. "If a resolution could be reached, the resolution would be final as to all matters."

Wade also was sued by his former partners, Mark Rodberg and Richard von Houtman, for breach of contract in the restaurant venture. A similar case brought by Rodberg accuses Wade of walking away from obligations to the charter schools, now known as Mavericks in Education Florida LLC. Wade has accused von Houtman of defaming him in e-mails to Heat president Pat Riley, and von Houtman has filed a countersuit to that.

Without a deal, Wade could find himself in courtrooms and law offices for months instead of focusing on the Heat season that begins with training camp on Sept. 27.

"This has got to hang like the sword of Damocles over his head," said Washington attorney Bruce Fein, who represents the plaintiffs in the memorabilia case.

The antitrust case also has turned into a headache for Riley, who has refused to give a deposition despite a subpoena. Alan Fein, the Heat attorney, has called the lawsuit frivolous and insisted in a court documents that Riley doesn't know enough about the value of Wade's memorabilia to provide any insights.

That has prompted the restaurant investors to ask that U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra order Riley to appear for his deposition on Oct. 6.

"The Miami Heat had a clear incentive to conspire with Wade to destroy (the restaurant partnership) because the latter was a competitor in the retail sale of personalized Wade sports memorabilia and in demands on Wade's advertising availability and time," the investors contend. "Wade may have informed Riley of why he was abandoning" the venture.

Alan Fein said he'll respond next week in court to the claims involving Riley.


Author: Fox Sports
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Added: September 15, 2009


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