A U.S. federal court judge in Arkansas has ruled that a former hotel employee who alleges that Michael Wekerle, a cast member of CBC's Dragons' Den, injured him, may seek punitive damages in his case.
Mr. Wekerle has been contesting a compensatory suit brought by Capital Hotel employee Brooks Jansen since late 2013. The TV star is now potentially facing a much bigger payout if the case goes against him.
Mr. Wekerle has also been compelled to disclose his net worth to the court, and to list all of his assets and liabilities, which he had previously argued are not relevant to the case.
The case dates from a bizarre incident in October, 2010, that saw Mr. Wekerle ejected from the Capital Hotel in Little Rock for a string of behaviour that included allegedly injuring Mr. Jansen.
A former valet at the Capital Hotel, Mr. Jansen alleges that Mr. Wekerle, while on a "drunken escapade," twisted his arm and attempted to flip him over his shoulder.
In court documents, Michael Parnell, a security guard in the Capital Hotel at the time of the incident and a former officer in the U.S. army, testified that Mr. Wekerle's moves were "designed to cause injury" and that Mr. Wekerle was acting in an "agitated and hostile" manner.
"The boy has had two operations on his shoulder. We don't know if he's going to make a complete recovery," said Bud Whetstone, lawyer with Whetstone Law Firm, who is representing Mr. Jansen.
None of the allegations have been proven in court.
In court documents, Mr. Wekerle admitted he was in "physical contact" with Mr. Jansen but he denies injuring him.
Mr. Wekerle's net worth has recently come under scrutiny. Last year, Rohit Sehgal, a former friend and longtime portfolio manager with Dynamic Funds, attempted to have Mr. Wekerle declared bankrupt after he failed to pay a $1.3-million (U.S.) debt. The case was settled earlier this year.
In December, Mr. Wekerle told The Globe and Mail, "On a bad day, I'm worth $150-million. On a good day I'm worth $250-million."
Mr. Wekerle also told The Globe that his biggest asset allocation is his investment in his own firm, Difference Capital Financial Inc. in which he invested approximately $65-million. That investment has soured, with the stock losing over 70 per cent since going public. Mr. Wekerle said much of the remainder of his net worth is tied up in a vast portfolio of real estate properties in the U.S. and Canada.
"I've gotten eight verdicts for over $1-million in my lifetime. So he's going to run into something that he's never run into before," said Mr. Whetstone.
In court documents, Mr. Wekerle admitted to a string of unusual behaviour in the Capital Hotel that included blowing a foghorn in the lobby, carrying off a lady and "playfully pretending" to lick her shoe. When asked if he "dropped his pants to his ankles in full view of guests and employees of the Capital Hotel," Mr. Wekerle admitted that, "while telling a joke in the Capital Bar and Grill, he did drop his pants."
"I've told a lot of jokes but none of them involve pulling my pants down," said Mr. Whetstone.
Mr. Wekerle also admits he "consumed substantial alcohol" and that he was "asked to find other accommodations" due to his conduct.
The case is set to go to trial in a federal court in Arkansas in October.
Mr. Wekerle was not available for comment. Calls to Mr. Wekerle's lawyer were not returned.