'Girls Gone Wild' chief loses $7.5M ruling to Wynn

February 23, 2012 - 4:55 PM
Girls Gone Wild Gambling

FILE - This Jan. 18, 2009 file photo shows Joe Francis at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. Francis says he’ll ask a Nevada judge to rescind a $7.5 million award to casino mogul Steve Wynn in a defamation case stemming from Francis’ claim that he had evidence Wynn deceives customers. (AP Photo/Peter Kramer, file)

LAS VEGAS (AP) — The founder of the "Girls Gone Wild" video empire said Thursday he'll ask a Nevada judge to rescind a $7.5 million award given to Las Vegas Strip casino mogul Steve Wynn in a civil defamation case.

Joe Francis told The Associated Press that he wasn't present and didn't have a chance to defend himself during a Wednesday hearing at which Clark County District Court Judge Mark Denton issued a default judgment and awarded Wynn $5 million in compensatory and $2.5 million in punitive damages.

"This is a joke," Francis said. "It can't stand. We weren't given notice."

Francis has made a fortune marketing videotapes featuring young women flashing their breasts, but he's been beset by legal problems in recent years. The defamation case came after he said he could prove that Wynn deceives casino customers.

Wynn and Wynn Las Vegas filed the lawsuit in 2008 amid a separate legal tussle over a $2 million casino debt that Francis incurred in 2007 at the Wynn Las Vegas resort.

Wynn released a statement Thursday saying Denton's ruling in the defamation case "disproves the false claims against Steve Wynn and Wynn Las Vegas that Francis has publically disseminated over the past three years."

Francis' Reno-based lawyer, David Houston, said attorneys who had been representing Francis in the case withdrew before Wednesday's hearing in Las Vegas, and the Los Angeles-based Francis didn't get proper notice.

Houston said he will appeal to the judge, but conceded it is usually difficult to ask for a judgment to be undone. He said he may also appeal to the Nevada Supreme Court.

"To default someone for not attending a pretrial conference, and then to enter a $7.5 million judgment without the party present seems extreme to the max to me," Houston said.