Cross-Office Team Secures Win for U.S. Bridge Federation in Player's Cheating Discipline Matter

Chicago, Ill. (December 8, 2021) - San Francisco Partner Duane C. Musfelt and Chicago Partner Mary A. Smigielski recently secured a win for the United States Bridge Federation (USBF) in a matter before the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. Through a successful motion for summary judgment, the USBF was victorious in its bid to compel professional bridge player Huub Bertens to proceed in arbitration before the American Arbitration Association (AAA), not the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in Switzerland, should he desire to challenge discipline imposed on him by the USBF after he was accused of cheating. 

As reported in Law360, after competing in an online invitational tournament hosted by the USBF, Bertens was accused of cheating. After a thorough investigation and hearing process, the USBF’s tribunal held that Bertens had cheated during the tournament and imposed a seven-year ban from its tournaments as punishment. Contrary to a provision in the competitor’s agreement that Bertens had executed requiring arbitration before AAA, Bertens attempted to appeal the decision to the CAS, an international body headquartered in Lausanne, Switzerland.

The USBF filed a petition to compel arbitration before AAA and to enjoin Bertens from proceeding in Switzerland. Bertens was represented by attorneys in Poland, Texas, and Illinois. In granting summary judgment, District Judge John Z. Lee held that the USBF arbitration agreement was enforceable, the discipline imposed fell within the scope of arbitrability, and Bertens had refused to arbitrate as agreed. Therefore, the Federal Arbitration Act mandated that the dispute proceed in arbitration before the AAA. Because CAS had disclaimed jurisdiction during the pendency of the federal case, Judge Lee determined that the request to enjoin arbitration before CAS was moot.

Attorney Mark Friedlander of law firm Venable acted as co-counsel for the USBF in the federal court case.

Mr. Musfelt is a co-chair of Lewis Brisbois' Professional Liability Practice. He has more than 40 years' experience in several areas of the law, including professional liability, directors' and officers' coverage and litigation, commercial litigation, and insurance law, with extensive litigation experience in professional malpractice matters defending attorneys, accountants, insurance agents, and other professionals.

Ms. Smigielski is the head of Lewis Brisbois' Chicago Labor & Employment Practice and co-chair of the firm’s Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA) Practice. Her practice includes the handling of class/collective actions and single-plaintiff employment litigation, administrative charges, nationwide counseling, training, and sensitive workplace investigations, including at the C-suite level.

Related Attorneys

Find an Attorney

Each of the firm's offices include partners, associates and a professional staff dedicated to meeting the challenge of providing the firm's clients with extraordinary service.