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Trial Date Set for January 2024 in LIV Golf vs. PGA Tour

One week after denying a temporary restraining order for three LIV golfers to play in the FedEx Cup playoffs, a date was set for the larger antitrust trial.

Judge Beth Labson Freeman made it official that the antitrust trial of Phil Mickelson, et al., v. PGA Tour, Inc. will commence on Monday, Jan. 8, 2024, in a status conference Thursday morning in San Jose, California.

Freeman, who ruled against LIV Golf on a motion for a temporary restraining order in her San Jose Federal District courtroom on Aug. 9, had told both sides at the time of her ruling that she was leaning toward a trial date of Aug. 7, 2023, and was not able to accommodate anything later.

In its order setting dates for the case on Thursday, the court outlined another case management conference on Sept. 15 and then the last day to hear dispositive motions on July 13, 2023, which will include the hearing on summary judgment.

The motion for summary judgment will be heard only by the judge, no jury will be present. It is a way to dispose of cases where the evidence shows that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party (plaintiffs) is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.

If the court does not rule in favor of the plaintiffs, then there will be a final pretrial conference to address any loose ends on Oct. 5, 2023, and the trial will commence in January.

One motion that plaintiffs could have filed, but chose to forgo was a motion for a preliminary injunction.

After the motion for a TRO failed last week, the next logical step would be a motion for a preliminary injunction, which would lift the suspensions imposed by the PGA Tour on those players that are still PGA Tour members and allow them to play, if they otherwise qualify.

But the TRO failed because the LIV Golf attorneys could not show an irreparable harm, something they would have to show in a motion for a preliminary injunction.

“The standard for issuing a temporary restraining order is identical to the standards for issuing a preliminary injunction,” Judge Freeman wrote in her decision. “An injunction is a matter of equitable discretion and is an extraordinary remedy that may only be awarded upon a clear showing that the plaintiff is entitled to such relief.”

That ultimately means the plaintiffs must again try to climb the irreparable harm hill that they failed at in the TRO hearing and, with no new information, likely a lesser case of harm due to the benefits of finishing in the top 30 of the FedEx Cup playoffs being no longer at issue. The plaintiffs decided not to pursue a motion for a preliminary injunction and now will focus solely on getting ready for its antitrust trial in January.