Originally created 12/17/05

Williams sisters contract lawsuit will be delayed



WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - A breach-of-contract lawsuit contending that tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams and their father reneged on promises to play in a 2001 "Battle of the Sexes" match won't be retried until late next year.

The new trial won't be held until at least November in deference to their tennis season, attorneys in the case said Friday.

A mistrial was declared earlier this week after more than two weeks of testimony. An attorney representing their father, Richard Williams, asked one of the promoters whether someone had given her money in return for a share of any damages won.

Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Jeffrey A. Winikoff had previously warned lawyers not to bring up the subject because it might prejudice the jury. He also imposed a $1,000 fine on the attorney who asked the question, but that fine was withdrawn Friday.

"Obviously, I'm delighted that the judge vacated the order against me," said attorney Jan Michael Morris of Boca Raton.

Promoters Carol Clarke and Keith Rhodes claim in the lawsuit that Richard Williams committed his daughters to play in the proposed match against male stars. The sisters testified that they alone had that authority, and Richard Williams said he never considered his discussions to be a formal contract.

The promoters' attorney did not immediately return a call Friday seeking comment.