Caddies sue PGA Tour over bibs

A group of professional tour caddies has filed a class-action lawsuit against the PGA Tour demanding compensation for wearing bibs during competition.

In the 39-page lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in California, the 82 caddies named as plaintiffs claim they "are made to serve as billboards to advertise, at the direction of the PGA Tour, for some of the most profitable companies in the world without compensation."

The total damages the caddies are seeking could be in the range of "hundreds of millions of dollars."

"There may be a battle as to what the limitations period is that applies, but it'll go back several years," Gene Egdorf, the caddies' Houston-based lawyer, told ESPN.com's Michael Collins on Tuesday. "If the value of the bib is what we suspect it might be, we're talking hundreds of millions of dollars at stake in the case."

The lawsuit claims the PGA Tour made $50 million on the bibs during the 2013-14 PGA Tour season. In some states, the statute of limitations could go back up to six years, Egdorf said, meaning upwards of $300 million.

The caddies also are asking for punitive damages, which could put the monetary figures even higher, with the argument that the PGA Tour's "conduct was intentional, reckless, and malicious." The lawsuit says the evidence in the case "will reveal a method of determining actual loss" for the caddies.

They also are seeking statutory damages of $750 per violation, although the definition of a violation isn't spelled out in the court documents.

"This lawsuit is intended to protect the rights of caddies who are required to endorse tour sponsors with zero compensation from the PGA Tour,'' Egdorf said. "Any working professional deserves to be paid based on the income they generate, but that's not happening on the PGA Tour.''

Tour commissioner Tim Finchem addressed the lawsuit Wednesday, saying the caddie/player relationship "goes a long way back" and that "we would like to continue that system and let it go on. We just have to see what happens with this litigation."

Finchem said measures have been made by the tour to help the caddies. PGA Tour players are considered to be independent contractors who employ their caddies individually.

"Over the last 15 years we, and our tournaments, have taken a number of steps to make the experience for a caddie as good as possible." he said. "That includes support on-site, how they're handled, from a parking standpoint, food. We also do the insurance subsidy.

"The extent to which the tour does better financially for the players, that impacts the ability of the player to do better for the caddie financially. Depending upon their own individual arrangement. So we think it's a good system. We think it's worked and we would like to continue it. But we'll just have to see what comes from the lawsuit."

The suit was filed in San Francisco, where former UCLA basketball star Ed O'Bannon successfully sued the NCAA for keeping college players from selling their marketing rights.

Named as the two class representatives were Mike Hicks, the caddie for Payne Stewart when he won his last U.S. Open, and Kenny Harms, who currently caddies for Kevin Na and is a board member of the Association of Professional Tour Caddies.

Harms said the number of caddies named as plaintiffs has changed but wouldn't say who has taken their name off the legal proceedings.

"There are players that are drinking the Kool-Aid of the PGA Tour," Harms said. "There have been a number of guys that were on the lawsuit originally that are no longer on the lawsuit because their player said it was not in their best interest to be on the suit."

Other PGA Tour caddies named as plaintiffs in the suit include Damon Green (Zach Johnson's caddie), Steven Hale (Keegan Bradley), Paul Tesori (Webb Simpson), Andy Sanders (Jimmy Walker), Jimmy Johnson (Steve Stricker), Micah Fugitt (Billy Horschel), James Edmondson (Ryan Palmer) and Tony Navarro (Gary Woodland). The lawsuit claims that potentially more than 1,000 caddies could be included eventually.

The lawsuit incorporates caddies on the Web.com Tour and Champions Tour, and it asks for an injunction to prevent the PGA Tour from forcing caddies to wear the bibs. The plaintiffs stated they have met with PGA Tour officials to try to discuss the matter but have been told "the bib is off the table," according to the lawsuit.

The court documents levy several serious claims against the PGA Tour, alleging that caddies were coerced into wearing the bibs and that tour officials "contacted tour players to determine whether players would be willing to terminate their agreements with caddies who refuse to wear the bibs." The lawsuit also requests a permanent injunction to keep the PGA Tour from revising its rules and regulations so as not to allow something similar to happen in the future.

Also mentioned in the lawsuit is a complaint that the tour has denied caddies access to health care and pension plans.

Information from The Associated Press and ESPN.com's Bob Harig and Michael Collins contributed to this report.