Judge Beverly Reid O'Connell dismisses FRS energy products fraud case
A Texas judge has cleared the way for an arbitration panel to review the $12 million in bonuses paid by SCA Promotions to Lance Armstrong before admitting he used performance-enhancing drugs.
Judge Tonya Parker has decided not to stop the panel from considering whether the Dallas-based agency should be repaid the bonuses it awarded Armstrong for three of his seven Tour de France victories.
Jeff Tillotson, an attorney for SCA Promotions, said on Wednesday that the panel is set to meet next month to consider his request for the repayment of $12 million in bonuses and penalties for lying under oath by Armstrong.
SCA Promotions filed one of several lawsuits against Armstrong after he admitted to doping.
While the SCA ruling is a further blow to Armstrong as he faces several lawsuits, a Los Angeles judge dismissed a fraud lawsuit, ruling that he engaged in mere "puffery" and not illegal false advertising when claiming that FRS energy products were his secret weapon for success.
In 2013, Armstrong was sued by a group of FRS consumers who sought more than $5 million from FRS and Armstrong for misleading them into buying their products, which include energy drinks.
Armstrong claimed the products were his "secret weapon" behind his seven consecutive Tour wins when in fact doping was his real secret weapon, according to their suit. The plaintiffs argued that if they had known the truth about his doping, they would not have bought FRS products.
Federal judge Beverly Reid O'Connell disagreed with the plaintiffs' argument. "The court finds that defendants' statements about a 'secret weapon' constitute non-actionable puffery," she wrote in her ruling.
Puffery is a legal concept that relates to advertising, a notion that companies can make exaggerated or boastful subjective claims about their products and not be held liable for literal definitions about them.
Armstrong was a spokesman and part owner of FRS and helped the company grow five-fold at the height of his fame, the suit states.
After doping evidence mounted against him in 2012, FRS parted ways with Armstrong and several other spokepeople.
The suit against FRS was filed against Armstrong a month after his admission during an interview with Oprah Winfrey televised in January of last year.
Armstrong attorney Zia Modabber is reported as saying that the FRS case was "opportunistic" and an example of "kicking a guy when he's down."
Five lawsuits have been filed against Armstrong in the aftermath of his confession. Two of lawsuits remain: a suit filed by the federal government on behalf of the U.S. Postal Service and the suit by a SCA Promotions.
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