A California court has awarded Parkwest Casinos founder John Park $47.4 million in compensatory damages from his ex-lawyer. That’s for sabotaging his bid to purchase a 50 percent stake in San Jose’s Casino M8trix, per court documents.
Park sued his former council Tracey Buck-Walsh in 2016, claiming she had thwarted his efforts to secure the stake in Casino M8trix by “using Park’s confidential information, assisting his competitors, and making disparaging remarks about Park to regulators and others.”
From 2003 to 2012, Buck-Walsh had provided legal services for Park’s gaming interests, which include the Lotus Casino in Sacramento, the Cordova Restaurant & Casino in Rancho Cordova, as well as card clubs in Lodi, Petaluma, and Livermore.
This involved representing Parkwest Casinos before the California Gambling Control Commission and the Bureau of Gambling Control. But the relationship between Park and Buck-Walsh broke down because of a dispute about billing rates.
Subsequently, Park agreed to acquire half of Casino M8trix from its then-co-owner Eric Swallow. But Swallow’s equal partners in the business, Peter and Jeanine Lunardi, tried to block the deal, and they hired Buck-Walsh.
The sale was also held up by inaction from the gambling commission, according to Park’s lawsuit. Eventually, in 2017, the commission approved the sale of Swallow’s stake, but not to Park, to the Lunardis and two new partners, Patrick and Jamie Tierney.
Park alleged in his complaint that Buck Walsh had told the regulator not to approve the his deal. He claimed she used knowledge she had gained as his former lawyer to badmouth him and sink the agreement, breaching her fiduciary duty.
I think the jury found the conduct of Tracy Buck-Walsh was in breach of any number of ethical obligations she had,” Park’s lawyer, Scott Garner, told The San José Spotlight. “You can tell they were probably offended by her conduct.”
Buck-Walsh is expected to appeal the verdict, according to The Spotlight.
Park has a separate lawsuit against the Lunardis that claims they interfered with his contractual right to by Swallow’s stake.
A lawyer for the Lunardis, Maurren Harrongton, told The Spotlight this week her clients held a contractual right of first refusal to purchase all the shares in Casino M8trix, which they exercised.
Swallow lost his gaming license in 2015 and had little choice but to sell up. That was after both he and the Lunardis were hit with similar accusations that they misrepresented Casino M8trix revenues to avoid paying taxes.
But Swallow was dealt with far more harshly than his business partners. While the Lunardis retained their license and paid a $250,000 penalty, Swallow lost his and was fined a record $13.8 million by the gaming commission.
Swallow sued the commission in a federal court in 2018 claiming the regulator had conspired with the Lunardis against him. But the case was dismissed, and the claims are unproven.
Peter Lunardi passed away in 2020.
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