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Sunday 23 September 2018
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Thema’s multi-million-dollar lawsuit nears trial stage

Thema Williams


LOCAL gymnast Thema Williams’ multi-million-dollar lawsuit against the TT Gymnastics Federation (TTGF) has moved one smaller step closer to trial.

Disclosure of documents critical to Williams’ lawsuit was made on Monday by the federation and its former executive members, whom she is suing.

Williams’ attorneys, led by Senior Counsel Martin Daly, in January threatened to have the federation’s defence to the lawsuit struck out because of its failure to provide the documents.

The documents relate to communication between the federation and fellow gymnast Marissa Dick, who Williams is claiming was unfairly picked ahead of her to represent this country at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The lawsuit came up for hearing at the Hall of Justice in Port of Spain yesterday before Justice Frank Seepersad, who said he was not pleased that the documents were only provided on Monday, when the federation and the others had since January to do so, as this issue was preventing the court from fixing a date for trial.

Attorney Justin Junkere, who represents the federation, said his client only had a few documents in its possession and had to rely on former executives to provide the others asked for.

Ronnie Bissessar, who appears with Senior Counsel Ramesh Lawrence Maharaj for former TTGF executives David Marquez, Akil Wattley, Ricardo Lue Shue and Donna Lue Shue, said his team wanted to be careful and advised the clients to “put in everything they felt was material or relevant,” and this took some time.

All that remains are telephone records for two of the defendants, who have written to TSTT and Digicel for the information.

E-mails between the Lue Shues and Dick have also been provided and Daly said these were critical to Williams’ lawsuit.

“We just want a trial with no obstructions,” Daly said.

A trial date is expected to be fixed on March 21, when the matter comes up for hearing again. The judge said he has open dates in August to facilitate the trial.

Williams is seeking $11.38 million compensation for what she says were the federation’s “harsh and oppressive” actions against her which shattered her dream of qualifying for the 2016 Olympic games.

Her lawsuit complains of “loss of opportunity” and damage to her personal and professional reputation allegedly caused by the actions of the federation’s executive. She further contends that by failing to be given an opportunity to qualify for the games, she suffered a huge loss of opportunity of endorsements, motivational speaking engagements, business opportunities and a full scholarship to the Michigan State University, which she gave up in her bid to represent TT at the event.

Williams claimed her coach, John Geddert, was informed by the federation that she was withdrawn because she was injured, a claim she denies.

Williams, by virtue of her higher score at the World Championships in Glasgow, was given the nod over Dick to compete at the Olympic test event – Aquece Final Gymnastics Qualifier – in April 2016.

She and Geddert were in the South American country preparing for the Olympic qualifier when the TTGF decided to replace her with the alternate, Dick.

Dick was flown in from Canada and eventually qualified to become the first person to represent TT in gymnastics at the Olympics.

Williams is also being represented by Keith Scotland.

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