By Joel Rosenblatt
Shaquille O’Neal is calling foul on the lawyers who chased him for months to serve a lawsuit accusing the basketball legend of duping investors in FTX crypto exchange.
A legal document “tossed” at the front of O’Neal’s car as he drove quickly through the gates of his Georgia home doesn’t count as properly serving a lawsuit, his attorneys say.
The seven foot-one inch former Los Angeles Lakers star and NBA commentator known as Shaq is among numerous celebrities targeted in a suit claiming they funneled investors into a Ponzi scheme by promoting FTX’s unregistered securities.
O’Neal stood as a holdout among the group for not acknowledging receipt of the complaint despite what plaintiffs’ lawyers said were dozens of attempts to present it to him at known residences in Georgia and Texas and elsewhere, according to court filings.
FTX Customers Seek to Serve Shaq With Fraud Suit Via Instagram
A month ago, the plaintiffs’ lawyers said they were ready to try an alternative method after their process server received a threatening text message stating that Shaq lives in the Bahamas.
So the lawyers sent an electronic link to the lawsuit to O’Neal on social media, arguing that should be good enough given his status as an active user of Instagram and Twitter. They reasoned that he was clearly aware of the suit, having denied allegations of wrongdoing related to FTX in a December interview with CNBC, and they noted that electronic service is permitted under Texas law. But the judge wouldn’t allow it.
The Moskowitz Law Firm finally declared success on April 17 when process servers caught up with O’Neal outside his Atlanta home.
Or so they thought.
O’Neal’s lawyers said in a filing Monday that the plaintiffs missed their deadline, and that resorting to throwing the documents at his car falls well short of legal requirements. They asked the judge to dismiss the suit against O’Neal in its entirety.
Investors have “had months and multiple tries,” O’Neal’s lawyers wrote. “Mr. O’Neal has not evaded service by failing to be at the residences where plaintiffs belatedly attempted service or by driving past strangers who approached his car.” The documents landed on a public road, according to the filing.
Plaintiffs’ attorney Adam Moskowitz called O’Neal’s filing “really disappointing and surreal.”
“The video will show Mr. O’Neal finally being served, after many months of hiding, as he attempts to possibly injure the process server,” Moskowitz said in an email. “We expected better from an officer of the law. Mr. O’Neal and his lawyers need to stop running and finally deal with these serious allegations.”
Roberto Martínez, a lawyer for O’Neal, didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking comment on Moskowitz’s statement.
The case is Garrison v. Bankman-Fried, 22-cv-23753, US District Court, Southern District of Florida (Miami).
(Updates with comment by lawyer for plaintiffs)
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