RALEIGH — The fishing crew from the 2010 Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament angling to claim nearly a million dollars in prize money won part of its fight this week, but a larger legal battle looms.
The state Supreme Court issued a favorable ruling Friday for the crew and owners of the Citation, a fishing boat that reeled in an 883-pound marlin the tournaments biggest catch.
Tournament officials accused the crew of breaking the rules and withheld $910,000 in prize money.
The contest organizers said the Citations first mate, Peter Wann, did not have a valid recreational saltwater fishing license until two hours after the fish was caught.
The anglers contend they were in international waters when the fish was caught and a state license was not necessary. By the time the boat was back in state waters, attorneys for the Citation and crew contend, Wann had gone online and obtained the state license that tournament rules addressed.
Big Rock organizers have not awarded the money for the first prize while the lawsuit filed in June 2010 pends.
The state Supreme Courts ruling on Friday sends the case back to Carteret County Superior Court where, in March 2011, Judge John Nobles dismissed the case.
Two Zebulon attorneys who represented the Citation owners and crew at the Supreme Court in January contended their clients should get a jury trial or a different judge.
Among the questions to be decided are whether the license misstep should have led to the disqualification and withholding of such a large prize.
The attorneys said the fishing crew did not gain a competitive edge by not having a license. They argued that tournament officials engaged in a breach of contract.
Attorneys representing Big Rock officials argued that such a decision should be at the sole discretion of tournament officials. If courts could decide such matters, the Big Rock attorneys said, competitors would seek a review any time tournament officials imposed a penalty to their dislike.
It was unclear Friday when the case might be added to a Carteret County Superior Court docket.