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Panel upholds ruling to dismiss caddie's lawsuit against Tour

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A three-judge panel from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals largely upheld a lower court ruling dismissing a lawsuit between a group of caddies and the PGA Tour last week.

In an opinion written by chief judge Sidney Thomas, the Ninth Circuit ruled that the U.S. District Court for the Northern California District correctly dismissed the caddies’ antitrust claims as well as the group’s contention of unfair competition.

The caddies originally filed the lawsuit in 2015 claiming that the bibs caddies wear during tournament rounds prevents them from seeking their own sponsorship opportunities.

“The panel held that the district court properly concluded that the caddies had consented to wearing the bibs, based on the text of a tournament participation form, considered with the caddies’ concession that the Tour had required them to wear bibs for decades,” Thomas wrote. “The district court also did not err in concluding that the caddies failed to allege plausibly that the Tour secured their consent through economic duress.”

Despite last week’s ruling, this may not be the end of the road for the lawsuit, which includes many of the game’s most well-known caddies including Paul Tesori (who caddies for Webb Simpson) and James Edmondson (Ryan Palmer). The panel did remand to the district court its decision to not allow the caddies to amend their federal antitrust claims. Whether the caddies will collectively decide to continue to pursue the lawsuit remains unclear.

“Our relationship with [Tour commissioner] Jay Monahan and the Tour has never been better and we look forward to moving forward with that relationship,” said Scott Sajtinac, president of the Association of Professional Tour Caddies.

The lawsuit was aimed at creating better health care opportunities and a retirement plan for caddies, but according to various sources, the Tour and the APTC have had ongoing negotiations to improve the group’s current healthcare plan.

A Tour spokesperson declined to comment on the panel’s ruling citing the long-held policy of not commenting on ongoing litigation.