(CN) - No "direct and admissible" evidence supports a businessman's claim that Sammy Hagar hired a hit man to settle a dispute over the rocker's Cabo Wabo chain of cantinas, a federal judge ruled.
Developer Milton Barbis sued the rock and roll star for $100 million in 2010. That was just one step in a string of litigation. In that action, Plaintiffs Barbis, Zone Sports Center, and Fresno Rock Taco sued Hagar, Red Head, Marco Monroy and SKYY Spirits, a subsidiary of Gruppo Campari, for breach of contract and emotional distress.
In 2008, Red Head dba Cabo Wabo Enterprises sued Fresno Rock Taco for breach of contract and trademark infringement, stemming from Fresno Rock's licensing agreement for Cabo Wabo, Hagar's restaurant franchise. All the complaints, and the recent ruling, were in Fresno Federal Court.
Though the parties settled the first complaint, Barbis claimed later that Hagar made him sign the confidential settlement "under duress." That initiated a 2009 judgment that barred Fresno Rock Taco from using or selling Red Head's trademarks and property.
In his 2010 complaint, Barbis claimed Hagar left him a voicemail stating, "I am going to fucking kill you."
Barbis also claimed a hit man was hired to rub him out.
U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White threw out all but two of Barbis' claims against Hagar in 2011, granting the former Van Halen frontman's motion to dismiss.
Judge White, however, allowed
Barbis to amend his duress and undue influence claims. Barbis then filed two amended complaints. Hagar was not a party to the second amended complaint filed in March last year.
But in a May 22 order, U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar dismissed Barbis' request to rescind the confidential settlement and set aside the 2009 judgment, noting that Barbis filed his lawsuit more than a year and a half after he received the alleged threats.
"More importantly, plaintiffs did not request to set aside the judgment until they responded to the OSC [order to show cause why this action should not be dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction] on April 18, 2013, more than four years after the alleged threats occurred," the judge wrote. "It appears that, were it not for the OSC, plaintiffs would not have sought to have the judgment set aside. These circumstances severely undermine any notion that a grave injustice would take place if the stipulated judgment were not set aside now."
Tigar found no merit to Barbis' claim that Hagar "had hired at least one hitman to kill him."
"Though this action has been pending for more than two years and the parties have had ample opportunity to conduct discovery, plaintiffs still cannot point to any direct and admissible evidence showing that Hagar had anything to do with the alleged hitmen. The only material evidence on this issue is the deposition testimony of Barbis' gardener, Gabriel Zaragoza, which is inadmissible hearsay," the judge wrote.
Though Zaragoza testified that he had spotted "an unidentified car" outside of Barbis' home, and "learned from his uncle and cousin that the individual driving the car was a hitman that Hagar had hired to kill Barbis" - the gardener said he did not know "why his cousin or uncle believed that Hagar had hired the hitman," and refused to disclose his relatives' names, Judge Tigar wrote.
"Because Zaragoza has no personal knowledge about the purported connection between the hitman and Hagar, Zaragoza's testimony on this issue is hearsay and thus is inherently unreliable," Tigar wrote.
Barbis conceded that a "combination of factors" influenced his decision to sign the settlement agreement, Tigar added. That included the stress Barbis was under after several legal disputes, unflattering media coverage, accusations of insurance fraud, and death threats.
"These allegations and evidence significantly weaken plaintiffs' duress claim because they lessen the likelihood that the proximate cause of Barbis' decision to sign the confidential settlement agreement was his belief that Hagar hired the hitmen," the judge wrote.
Tigar ruled that the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to consider Barbis' claim to rescind the settlement agreement.