ROKiT set to refile Williams F1 legal case in California after Florida dismissal

ROKiT boss Jonathan Kendrick has said he is “not letting go” of his $149m legal action against Williams, despite its dismissal by a Florida court on technical grounds.

George Russell, Williams Racing FW42

The case was dismissed after the judge ruled that ROKiT’s lawyer was not allowed to practice in the US District court of the Southern District of Florida, where it was filed.

Kendrick will now shift the case to California, where the Englishman and his company are based.

“I'm not letting this go,” Kendrick told Autosport. “We’re going to refile in California.”

The case relates to ROKiT’s period as title sponsor of the Grove outfit. The company paid Williams $19m in 2019 and fulfilled its commitments, but when the start of the 2020 season was delayed by COVID-19 Kendrick asked to renegotiate payments.

But in May and several weeks before the first race Williams ended the agreement and the cars raced without its ROKiT livery that season.

A dispute over the unpaid fees for 2020 subsequently went to the London Court of International Arbitration, where Williams ultimately proved successful.

In April this year ROKiT launched legal action against Williams, also naming former deputy team principal Claire Williams and past team executives Mike O’Driscoll (who served as CEO) and Doug Lafferty (who was chief financial officer). All three left the team in the autumn of 2020 as a result of the takeover by Dorilton.

Kendrick said a Florida court was chosen essentially because of Miami’s F1 current connections.

The filing claimed that the team made “fraudulent statements” about its potential competitiveness, with ROKiT in essence suggesting that the ICA didn’t have the full story when it made its arbitration decision.

Nicholas Latifi, Williams FW42

Nicholas Latifi, Williams FW42

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

The claim noted that “as a direct and proximate result of the fraudulent statements made by the defendants, plaintiffs have suffered significant financial loss and damage to their goodwill and business reputation,” and asked for compensation for “an amount in excess of $149,528,550 dollars”.

Kendrick’s case was launched on his behalf by Larry Klayman, a well-known lawyer who has been involved in a number of high-profile actions, including some against former US presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, and current president Joe Biden.

Last week Judge Beth Bloom dismissed the case on the grounds that Klayman is currently unable to operate in the Southern Florida District Court due to the fallout from an unrelated matter.

Following a motion for clarification from the Williams side, Judge Bloom noted that Klayman had been “suspended from practice in the District Court” and that ROKiT had “failed to obtain counsel authorised to practice in this District.”

With the Florida case now not proceeding Kendrick will switch his focus to California, with a new legal team, as Klayman isn’t licensed to work in the state.

Klayman downplayed the reasons behind the dismissal of the ROKiT case.

“I have challenged the suspension,” he told Autosport. “There's a motion pending to set it aside. Because it's incorrect.

“This is a matter which is 15 years old, coming out of the District of Columbia, which is a very toxic place. I took on Obama and it just so happens the judge who dismissed the case is an Obama appointee.”

Regarding the ROKiT case, he said: “It was dismissed without prejudice, and it will be refiled in another court very shortly in the next few days.

George Russell, Williams Racing FW42

George Russell, Williams Racing FW42

Photo by: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport Images

“It will be refiled in California. That was a strategic decision that was made before the judge dismissed the case. So we were going to that anyway. It will be handled by California lawyers. Not by me.

“No harm has been done, no rights have been lost. That's key. The case was not dismissed on its merits.”

With the Florida case over and no formal filing anywhere else as yet, the Williams team’s current position is that the matter is completed.

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“Williams Racing can confirm that the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida has dismissed all claims filed by ROKiT against Williams and its former directors,” a spokesperson told Autosport.

“Having successfully obtained an arbitration award against ROKiT in the UK and successfully securing confirmation of the arbitral award by a federal court in the United States, Williams continues to place its trust in the legal system with regard to its dispute with ROKiT, and looks forward to receipt of the amount awarded to it under the original arbitral award.”

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