Detroit-Burger King and Pizza Hut guru LaVan Hawkins recently won "round one" in his $1.9 billion lawsuit against Burger King Corp. Famed attorney Willie Gary of Florida, along with attorney Norman Yatooma of Michigan, are representing Hawkins.

Chief U.S. District Judge William J. Zloch stayed Burger King's action against Hawkins' UrbanCityFood Group in Florida. Burger King's lawsuit included a request for an injunction to close down Hawkins' 27 franchise restaurants in Michigan and throughout the country. The court ruled that where the litigation was first filed dictates where the proceedings will be litigated when there is a substantial overlap between the issues raised in parallel proceedings in two different jurisdictions. Accordingly, the court ordered that Burger King's action was to be marked as closed.

Noting that Burger King filed a $6.5 million lawsuit against Hawkins in Miami just five days after Hawkins sued Burger King for $1.9 billion in Detroit, attorney Maria Sperando of the Gary firm stated that the court reached the right conclusion for the right reasons.

Hawkins initiated the litigation in the U.S. District Court in Detroit for reasons of fraud, misrepresentation, breach of contract and racial discrimination, among other issues. His case is pending before Federal Judge Marianne Battani.

According to the July 31, 2000 Financial Times, Reverend Jesse Jackson has been called in to mediate the case. Gary refers to Hawkins as the "Bill Gates of the fast food industry" and accused Burger King of reneging on its commitments after benefiting from Hawkins' genius.

National activists who support him, including Dick Gregory, Reverend Al Sharpton and Reverend Wendell Anthony (president of the NAACP Detroit chapter), consistently emphasize that the fight with Burger King is not about Hawkins but about the fact that "promises made should be promises kept. Burger King's promise to award Hawkins 225 franchise stores over five years has been broken and Hawkins and the community that he represents have been irreparably damaged as a result," Reverend Sharpton said. -PRNewswire