Monday, July 16, 2001
Court of Appeal Cuts Damage Award Against Chuck Norris Over Soured Deal to Reopen Casino in Lebanon
By a MetNews Staff Writer
This district’s Court of Appeal has upheld a ruling holding actor Chuck Norris liable in connection with his role in a failed deal to reopen a long-closed casino in Lebanon, but has substantially cut the damage award.
Div. Five said the award of $169,000 to Falcon Group, the promoter of the proposed casino, wasn’t supported by substantial evidence and cut it to $55,000.
Norris allegedly became involved in the Lebanese discussions through Russian-American businessman Nikolaj Vissokovsky II, who Norris met on a visit to Russia in 1992. Vissokovsky brought Norris into the Lebanese discussions, according to testimony, after Vissokovsky was introduced to Falcon’s principal, entertainment producer Roger Kalousz, by an acquaintance.
Falcon claimed to have spent $285,000 on the casino project before it learned in 1995 that Norris was pulling out. Norris, who reportedly owns small interests in Las Vegas casinos, later invested $1.5 million in a Moscow casino project at Vissokovsky’s urging and lost every penny of it, according to newspaper accounts and testimony in the Falcon case.
Falcon sued Norris; his manager, Myron Emery, who allegedly handled the details of Norris’ proposed involvement on the actor’s behalf; and Vissokovsky. Falcon sought huge damages, but jurors concluded that the defendants didn’t commit fraud, didn’t misrepresent facts, and intended to perform.
The jury did find, however, that Falcon paid $169,000 pursuant to a valid contract prior to its abandonment or rescission, and Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Caesar Sarmiento awarded judgment in that amount.
Falcon appealed, citing various evidentiary rulings, including the exclusion of testimony regarding the Moscow venture. Falcon hoped to prove that Vissokovsky had acted pursuant to a common scheme to obtain money for feasibility studies and pocket the funds.
The appellate panel rejected the contention, saying the evidence would have been unduly confusing. And it ruled in favor of Norris and Emery, in part, on their cross-appeal.
There was sufficient evidence, Justice Margaret Grignon said, to prove that Emery had agreed—on the actor’s behalf—to assume responsibility on a contract that Vissokovsky had signed with Falcon. That agreement required payment by Falcon of $55,000 to Vissokovsky for a feasibility study.
But there was insufficient evidence, the jurist went on to say, to charge Emery or Norris with responsibility for any of the other money Falcon spent on the project.
Attorneys on appeal were Clifford W. Roberts Jr. of Roberts & Associates for Falcon Group, Joseph F. Hart of Donaldson & Hart for Emery, and Anjani Mandavia and Lawrence B. Steinberg of Weissman, Wolff, Bergman, Coleman, Silverman & Holmes for Norris.
Copyright 2001, Metropolitan News Company