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California court throws out caddie lawsuit against PGA Tour

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- Caddies lost their class-action lawsuit against the PGA Tour when a federal judge in California ruled they signed a contract with the tour that requires them to wear bibs as part of their uniform and cannot claim that corporate sponsorship on the bibs makes them "human billboards."

U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria dismissed the lawsuit Tuesday night with prejudice, which typically means it cannot be refiled.

The caddies intend to appeal the ruling.

"We are obviously disappointed with the Court's ruling," Gene Egdorf, the lawyer who has been representing the caddies, told ESPN's Michael Collins via email. "With all due respect to the Court, we feel he got it wrong."

The ruling came just over one year after the lawsuit, which grew to include 168 caddies, was filed in federal court in Northern California.

Chhabria dismissed all seven of the contractual claims.

"We are aware of the ruling made in our favor regarding the lawsuit filed last year by caddies and are pleased by the court's decision," the PGA Tour said in a statement. "We look forward to putting this matter behind us and moving forward in a positive direction with the caddies."

The caddies and the tour had been at odds for the last several years over what they perceive as poor treatment. They are not allowed in clubhouses, and at some tournaments they are not allowed in the locker room.

At the heart of the lawsuit was a claim that the tour was using them as "human billboards" because the bibs they wore on the course, which featured the logo of the title sponsor, amounted to advertising to which they received no compensation. Lawyers for the caddies estimated the value of the advertising at $50 million a year.

Chhabria suggested in his ruling that the caddies' own complaint worked against them.

The contract a caddie signs to work a PGA Tour event says that caddies are to wear uniforms and identification badges prescribed by the tournament and the tour. Chhabria said the caddies in their brief acknowledge that "the PGA Tour has required caddies to wear bibs for decades."

"In other words, for decades, the bib has been the primary part of the `uniform' that the Tour requires caddies to wear," Chhabria wrote. "The only reasonable interpretation of the contract is that the caddies agreed the Tour could make them wear bibs."

Chhabria also found no merit to claims of antitrust and trademark law, along with complaints of publicity rights and that contracts were signed under duress.

"The caddies overall complaint about poor treatment by the Tour has merit, but this federal lawsuit about bibs does not," Chhabria said.

Richard Meadow of Lanier Law Firm, which represents the caddies, said the decision would be closely reviewed.

"We are however pleased the court acknowledged that the caddies are treated poorly by the PGA Tour and hope that the Tour takes that to heart and begins to treat them with the respect and dignity they deserve," Meadow said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.