NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. -- A wrongful death lawsuit filed on behalf of Arturo Gatti's daughter is a blatant attempt to capitalize on the late boxer's fame and reputation in New Jersey and should be dismissed and instead moved to Brazil, where he died, attorneys for Gatti's widow argued Friday.
Erika Rivera, mother of Sofia Bella Gatti, filed a wrongful death suit last fall against Gatti's widow, Amanda Rodrigues Gatti, charging she was responsible for Gatti's death in Brazil in 2009. Authorities in Brazil concluded Gatti committed suicide only after they initially detained Rodrigues Gatti as a suspect.
An independent team of investigators hired by Gatti's family and former trainer has claimed the boxer was murdered.
The charismatic Gatti lived, trained and fought in New Jersey and was a fan favorite for his gritty style, as seen in three memorable bouts against fellow 140-pounder Micky Ward at Atlantic City's Boardwalk Hall.
In state Superior Court in New Brunswick on Friday, Rodrigues Gatti's attorneys claimed Rivera, who lives in New Jersey, brought the action in New Jersey to benefit from Gatti's reputation there. Last month, a Canadian judge sided with Rodrigues Gatti in a battle with his family over the boxer's $3.4 million estate.
"They brought the case here because they knew they wouldn't win in Canada," attorney Mark Casazza told state Superior Court Judge Glenn Berman. "They're bringing it (to New Jersey) because they don't think my client will get any sympathy here."
Casazza argued that a trial arising from the lawsuit should be held in Brazil because Rodrigues Gatti lives there, as do any witnesses who saw the couple on the night in question.
Rivera's attorney, Jason LeBoeuf, argued that New Jersey is an appropriate venue because it is where Rodrigues Gatti filed a defamation suit against the New York Daily News and New York Post regarding articles written in 2009. The suit lists her as residing in Elizabeth, he said, a statement Casazza said was made in error.
Berman didn't say Friday when he would rule on the motion to dismiss the lawsuit on jurisdictional grounds, but asked for English translations of the Canadian trial transcripts.
The Canadian judge ruled Gatti's last will, written in 2009 weeks before his death, was legitimate and awarded Rodrigues Gatti his entire estate. Gatti's family argued unsuccessfully that he was duped into signing the will. On Friday, Berman questioned why Rivera's wrongful death claim wasn't added to the Canadian trial instead of being filed separately.
Gatti's body was found in July 2009 at an apartment he, his wife and their son had rented in the Brazilian seaside resort of Porto de Galihnas. Police ultimately concluded Gatti hanged himself with a handbag strap from a wooden staircase column in their apartment.
A Canadian coroner's report released in November found no clear evidence of foul play but accused the Brazilians of mishandling forensic evidence.
A 10-month investigation undertaken on behalf of the Gatti family and trainer Pat Lynch last year criticized the Brazilian investigation as well but went further, concluding that physical evidence showed Gatti could not have committed suicide.