Representative Matters

The Firm has experience in varied areas of law.  Examples of cases that the Firm has litigated, include:

 

Motion Picture Related Litigation (Breach of Contract and Fraudulent Transfer)

Motion Picture Related Litigation (Trade Secret and Breach of Implied Contract)

Motion Picture Related Litigation (Defense of Breach of Contract)

Music Related Litigation (Intellectual Property)

Real Property (Land Use) Litigation

Real Property Litigation (Breach of Purchase Contract)

Real Property Litigation (Inverse Condemnation)

Real Property Litigation (Trespass)

Business Litigation (Breach of Note)

Business Litigation (Defense of Corporate Dispute)

Business Litigation (Breach of Contract and Business Torts)

Invasion of Privacy Litigation

Personal Property Damage Litigation

Consumer Litigation (Unfair Business Practices)

Civil Rights Litigation

Commercial Litigation (Jurisdictional Issue)

Music Related (Intellectual Property) Litigation (Jurisdictional Issue)

 


 

Motion Picture Related Litigation (Breach of Contract and Fraudulent Transfer)

In one matter, the Firm represented a small motion picture production company that had made a motion picture for an international distributor. When the distributor failed to pay the client its fees, the client’s general partner, who was not an attorney, commenced a legal action against the distributor seeking $125,000 in damages.  The distributor, however, made no offer to resolve the dispute.  Instead, the distributor’s counsel demurred to the client’s complaint.

The Firm stepped in and filed a first amended complaint making the pending demurrer moot.  The Firm then sought and obtained a pre-trial writ of attachment in the amount of $101,000 and levied on various assets, including cash, of the distributor.  Thereafter, an overseas Dutch bank sought to defeat the client’s attachment lien by bringing a third-party claim.  The bank asserted it had a superior $20 million security interest on the assets arising out of certain alleged loans it made to the distributor.  The bank was represented by a major national law firm.  After contentious discovery and disputes over the scope of the pleadings, a summary trial was held on the bank’s third-party claim.  The Firm prevailed in the proceeding, resulting in the client’s attachment lien being in front of the bank’s security interest in the distributor’s assets.

The bank, subsequently, took multiple appeals in an effort to thwart the Firm’s efforts to recover on behalf of the client.  In the meantime, the Firm obtained a $492,000 judgment against the distributor.  During the period that these activities were occurring, the distributor purportedly transferred its assets to a wholly owned subsidiary of the bank.

While the matter was pending in the appellate court, the Firm filed on behalf of the client a lawsuit against the bank, certain affiliated companies of the bank, and the bank’s law firm.  The lawsuit alleged that the defendants were responsible for, among other things, fraudulent conveyance, conspiracy and conversion.  The Firm then through procedures set out in the Hague Convention obtained personal jurisdiction over the bank, which was headquartered in France.

Meanwhile, a debtor of the distributor brought an interpleader action in federal court contending it owed money to the distributor but did not know whether to pay the funds to the client or other creditors of the distributor.

Eventually, the bank’s first appeal ended in a published opinion in favor of the client.  The appellate court in Generale Bank Nederland, N.V. et al. v. Eyes of the Beholder Ltd. (1998) 61 Cal.App.4th 1384 affirmed the trial court’s denial of the bank’s third-party claim, and in so doing provided a detailed account of how the Firm prevailed in the proceeding. [Read the Opinion]

With the Firm’s appellate victory, the Sheriff released to the client $101,000 of the distributor’s cash subject to the client’s attachment lien.  Ultimately, in the federal interpleader action, the Honorable Dickran Tevrizian, Federal District Court Judge, presided over a settlement conference where the parties negotiated a final global resolution of all disputes resulting in the bank (in conjunction with the other defendants) paying an additional $750,000 to the client.

 

Motion Picture Related Litigation (Trade Secret and Breach of Implied Contract)

In another entertainment matter, the Firm took on litigation for its client against a major Hollywood motion picture studio and a powerhouse production company.  The client, a small technology company, developed cutting-edge software making it possible for film makers in real time to take objects in the physical world, such as actors and props, and use them to manipulate or to merge with computer generated imagery.  The production company hired the client to demonstrate to the studio the feasibility of making a multi-million dollar movie using virtual technology.  Prior to the studio green-lighting the project, the production company fired the client, and ended up making the biggest grossing movie to date.

The Firm initially sued the production company, another individual, and later added the studio as a defendant.  Among other things, the Firm asserted for the client claims for misappropriation of trade secrets and breach of implied contract.  The trade secret litigation was both highly technical and problematic.  Technically, the litigation was difficult because it involved sophisticated comparisons of the client’s software to the software the production company asserted it had developed independently of the client’s work on the project.  Adding to the litigation’s complexity was the production company’s contention that it competed against the client.  Based on the need to maintain its purported trade secret in the software, the production company was initially able to preclude the Firm from having the client’s personnel examine the production company’s code.  This handicapped the Firm because the client could not assist the Firm in case preparation, such as comparison of the client’s software with the code the production company claimed to be its trade secret.  The production company’s claim of trade secret in the software also meant that the Firm had to retain an expert who was not commercially involved in virtual production.  The Firm was ultimately able to obtain a highly qualified academic as its expert.

Because trade secrets were involved, much of the pretrial paperwork had to be submitted under the terms of a protective order.  This included the burdensome process of filing many of the court papers under seal so that proprietary information contained in the material did not become part of the public record.  Moreover, counsel for the production company made various pre-trial maneuvers to have the client’s case thrown out or stripped down.  One extremely technical motion brought by the production company contended that the Firm had insufficiently designated the client’s trade secrets in its software.  This resulted early on in the litigation in a battle of expert witnesses which the Firm ultimately won.  Thereafter, the production company fought tooth and nail to deny the Firm discovery, including seeking a protective order precluding the Firm from taking the deposition of the movie’s director.  As events transpired, however, the Firm prevailed in discovery motions and the production company turned over, among other things, its software code and behind-the-scenes footage of the making of the movie.  The Firm was also able to obtain a site inspection of the production company’s virtual production equipment.  Moreover, the production company was required to produce for deposition, among other witnesses, the movie’s director, who is one of the most famous motion picture directors in the business.

After the Firm defeated multiple motions to have the client’s case thrown out of court, the parties submitted the litigation to mediation.  Following a multiple day, extended mediation, the parties entered in a confidential settlement agreement satisfactory to all sides.    [Click Here for Link to article on settlement by The Hollywood Reporter]

 

Motion Picture Related Litigation (Defense of Breach of Contract)

The Firm also defended a motion picture production and distribution company in an action instituted by plaintiffs who had contracted with a subsidiary entity to produce a large budget independent motion picture.  The plaintiffs alleged that the client had breached a contract entered into with plaintiffs for plaintiffs’ producing services with respect to the motion picture.  However, the agreement with plaintiffs contemplated their services only in the event the client elected to proceed with production of the movie.  In the end, the client for sound financial reasons elected in good faith not to proceed with production.  The plaintiffs thereafter commenced an action against the client for breach of the agreement because an individual associated with the client was involved in the production of the picture by another entity.

The matter went to mediation days before the Firm was to file a motion for summary judgment.  The mediation ended in the parties reaching a confidential settlement which resulted in dismissal of the entire case.

 

Music Related Litigation (Intellectual Property)

The Firm in another matter represented a record company and concert promoter who were sued for allegedly improperly promoting an artist claimed to have been using wrongfully the name of a particular band.  Together with counsel for the artist co-defendant, the Firm brought a successful motion for summary judgment, defeating completely the plaintiffs’ complaint. Thereafter, in conjunction with a still pending cross-complaint, the parties negotiated a settlement whereby the plaintiffs released all rights in and to the band name worldwide.  This was a beneficial resolution because a California court judgment would likely not have protected the client and the artist against claims in other states.

 

Real Property (Land Use) Litigation

In a land use case, the Firm brought a lawsuit on behalf of its clients against several parties, including a municipality.  The lawsuit alleged, among other things, a federal civil rights (equal protection) claim under 42 U.S.C. §1983.  The city initially succeeded in demurring to the civil rights claim, but the Firm had the demurrer overturned on appeal.

At trial, because the civil rights claim related to a subdivision project, the Firm had the difficult task of proving that the city had no rational basis for treating the clients differently than other members of the community.  At the conclusion of a more than two week trial, the jury found that the city had no rational basis for its actions and reached a verdict in favor of the clients in the amount of $239,290.  Subsequently, the court imposed offsets (from earlier settlements with other parties) and an award of attorneys’ fees and costs, resulting in a judgment in the amount of just over $300,000.  The City then appealed from the judgment and the clients filed a cross-appeal challenging the offsets imposed by the trial court.  Before any briefing in the appeal was done, the parties settled the case for the city’s payment of $350,000 to plaintiffs.

 

Real Property Litigation (Breach of Purchase Contract)

A plaintiff sued a client of the Firm for breach of a commercial real estate sales contract for the purchase of an apartment building.  The plaintiff sought from the client damages in excess of $1.1 million.  The Firm defended the action primarily by asserting the defense that the contract’s liquidated damages provision limited the damages plaintiff could recover.  The parties’ various offers and counteroffers during contract negotiations appeared to set the amount of liquidated damages at $10,000 or $50,000, depending upon when the breach occurred.  The Firm successfully maneuvered to have the enforceability of the liquidated damages provision tried to the Court well before the trial of the entire case.  After the trial court ruled the liquidated damage provision was enforceable, the plaintiff agreed in relatively short order to settle the case for $10,000.

 

Real Property Litigation (Inverse Condemnation)

The Firm represented three different homeowners who sued the City of Los Angeles claiming their houses were damaged by tunneling done by the City in connection with a sewer construction project.  The Firm filed complaints on behalf of each client alleging claims for, among other things, inverse condemnation, trespass, nuisance and negligence.  One of the cases, involving property which had rather serious damage, settled well in advance of trial for $425,000.  The other two cases, which involved properties where the damage to the real property was not nearly as serious, settled shortly before trial for $325,000 each.

 

Real Property Litigation (Trespass) [Click Here for News Coverage of this Case]

The Firm initially obtained for its clients a $280,000 jury verdict against a billboard company.  The award included $130,000 in compensatory damages and $150,000 in punitive damages.  The case arose out of the clients’ claim that the company wrongfully trimmed the clients’ tree to provide an unobstructed line of sight to a billboard.  The jury found that defendant was responsible for damaging the clients’ tree and that defendant was liable for spoliation of evidence (i.e., destroying their tree trimming records after suit had been filed).  The $150,000 punitive damage award was based on the jury’s finding that defendant acted with malice, oppression, or fraud and should be required to pay exemplary damages.

The billboard company appealed the verdict.  In the interim, the California Supreme Court decided Cedars-Sinai Medical Center v. Superior Court (1998) 18 Cal. 4th 1 which did away with the tort of spoliation of evidence.  Thereafter, in the clients’ matter, the court of appeal found that the Cedars-Sinai case should be applied retroactively.  The appellate court reversed the trial court judgment and sent the case back for a new trial without the spoliation claim.  (Hassoldt v. Patrick Media Group, Inc. (2000) 84 Cal.App.4th 153.)  [Read the opinion]  The Firm then prepared for a retrial on the claims for trespass and nuisance.  The Firm also prepared a motion for monetary sanctions in excess of $250,000 consistent with the holding in Cedars-Sinai.  Prior to retrial, however, the parties reached a confidential settlement of the case.

 

Business Litigation (Breach of Note)

The Firm commenced litigation on behalf of its client seeking recovery on a $1,050,000 note made by the defendants.  The Firm successfully obtained writs of attachment against defendants for the money owed.  The defendants then filed a motion to post a bond to avoid having their property attached.  After initially opposing the motion (because the proposed bonding company appeared to the Firm to be financially unsound), the Firm ultimately stipulated to accept a more reputable bonding company proposed by defendants.

In the meantime, defendants successfully moved to compel arbitration as required under the parties’ relevant agreements.  Extensive pre-arbitration proceedings ensued and then after more than ten days of hearings, the arbitrator found in favor of the client and rejected all of defendants’ counterclaims.  Once the arbitration award was issued and attorneys’ fees were granted to the client, the trial court confirmed the award and entered judgment against defendants and in favor of the client in the amount of $1,623,236.83.

The defendants then appealed the trial court’s confirmation of the arbitration award and refused to withdraw the appeal after the Firm pointed out that the appeal was frivolous.  In the appellate court, the Firm filed a motion for sanctions based on the frivolousness of the appeal.  Following extensive oral argument and supplemental briefing, the Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s confirmation of the $1,623,236.83 arbitration award and imposed monetary sanctions, jointly and severally, on defendants in the amount of $27,500.00.  The Firm then on behalf of the client caused the bonding company to make full payment on the $1,050,000 bond.

 

Business Litigation (Defense of Corporate Dispute)

The Firm represented the controlling shareholder of a corporation holding the rights to a dealership franchise of a prestigious foreign automotive brand.  A dispute arose between the client and the corporation’s minority shareholder.  The minority shareholder sued the client for damages for allegedly mismanaging the company.  At a bench trial, a high-ranking officer of the franchisor testified favorably for the minority shareholder in an apparent attempt to have the franchise agreement revoked (and presumably given to the minority shareholder).  After effective cross-examination of the franchisor’s officer, and presentation of powerful counter evidence, the trial court ruled in the client’s favor on the vast majority of issues.  The court’s decision also allowed the client to maintain his majority ownership and the corporation was permitted to keep the franchise.  Moreover, the Firm was able to obtain reimbursement from the corporation of a very substantial portion of the attorney’s fees the client had expended in defending the case.  At the same time, in post-trial proceedings the Firm successfully opposed the plaintiff minority shareholder’s effort to collect any fees incurred in the litigation.

 

Business Litigation (Breach of Contract and Business Torts)

The client was the manager/member and salaried employee of a three-manager limited liability company.  The company also had an agreement to lease real property belonging to the client.  A falling out of the parties occurred when the other two managers orchestrated the termination of the client’s employment agreement, had the client removed as a manager, and had the company dishonor the client’s lease.  The Firm brought a lawsuit on behalf of the client asserting,  among other things, claims for breach of contract, inducing breach of contract, wrongful interference with contractual relationship and breach of fiduciary duty.  After the Firm prevailed on several motions brought during the pendency of the litigation, the matter was settled with the defendants agreeing to pay client for all back salary and attorney’s fees (plus interest) and salary on a going forward basis.  The entire payment plan was backed up by a very substantial stipulation for entry of judgment.

 

Invasion of Privacy Litigation [Click Here for News Coverage of this Case]

The Firm settled a case on behalf of its clients, a husband and wife, for the unauthorized use of photographs taken of them by their wedding photographer days after their wedding.  The Firm negotiated settlements against the three defendants for a total of $195,000.

The case arose out of the clients agreeing to allow their wedding photographer to take additional photographs of them and to use the pictures for wedding expos.  Subsequently, the clients learned that a major retailer was using one of the photographs as an insert in picture frames sold in its stores throughout the United States.  The clients also discovered that another company had used eight of their wedding photographs in color fliers it distributed for purposes of advertising the company’s merchandise.

When the clients learned of the improper use of the photograph(s), they demanded it cease immediately.  When nearly a year had passed and the frames with photographs had still not been removed from store shelves, the Firm filed a lawsuit on behalf of the clients.  The complaint sought damages for, among other things, common law and statutory (Civil Code §3344) invasion of privacy along with demands for temporary and permanent injunctions.

The Court issued a preliminary injunction requiring the retailer to remove and destroy all remaining copies of the photograph in its picture frames.  At the conclusion of a initial mediation before a court appointed mediator, the clients settled with the company for $22,500.  Eventually, after further mediation the photographer and the retailer settled the case by agreeing to collectively pay an additional $172,500 to the clients.

 

Personal Property Damage Litigation

In another matter, a client of the Firm had virtually all of her belongings (including irreplaceable heirlooms) destroyed by a fire at the guest house where she resided.  In connection with the fire, the Fire Department determined that the source of heat igniting the blaze was a short circuit with arcing from defective/worn wire insulation.

Before any lawsuit was filed, the Firm submitted a claim to defendant’s insurance carrier.  The carrier’s in-house adjuster denied any liability for the fire, took the position that the electrical system did not have problems at the time of the fire, and outright refused to discuss any pre-litigation resolution of the dispute.

Confronted with so unreasonable position, the Firm filed a lawsuit on behalf of the client and against the defendant.  The complaint alleged that the defendant maintained the premises in an unsafe condition and for that reason, among others, was liable for damages resulting from the fire.

At the mediation some four months before trial, the defendant failed to offer any money to settle the case, though defendant’s counsel later contended that he had communicated a $5,000 offer to the mediator.  At a later settlement conference just before trial, defendant’s offer increased to $50,000 and ultimately to $100,000.  The case settled for $131,427.50 on the day the parties were to select a jury.

 

Consumer Litigation (Unfair Business Practices)

In this matter, a client of the Firm asked an automotive salesman for the “best deal possible” on a certain make of car.  The salesperson steered the client to a pre-owned model of the vehicle that the dealership offered for lease.  The parties negotiated and eventually the salesperson came back with what he said was his sales manager’s “best deal.”  The client accepted the offer and entered into a lease. However, unbeknownst to the client, the dealership at that time was running a newspaper advertisement essentially offering for lease on better terms its entire inventory of new cars of the same make.  A few days later, the client saw the advertisement and returned to the dealership asking why he was not offered the advertised lease.  The sales manager replied that the advertised vehicles were unavailable, stripped down models.  When the client pointed out that one of the show room cars met the criteria of the advertisement, the salesperson offered to exchange vehicles but at a much higher monthly payment.

After sending a letter on behalf of the client demanding that the dealership honor the advertisement, the Firm brought a lawsuit alleging, among other things, fraud, unfair business practices and false advertising.  The Firm obtained in discovery a court order requiring the dealership to disclose the names and addresses of all of its customers who had leased vehicles from within a certain time period.  The dealership then applied to the appellate court to have the discovery order overturned.  After the appellate court essentially left the discovery order intact, the parties entered into a confidential settlement agreement satisfactory to both sides.

 

Civil Rights Litigation

In a federal civil rights lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles, the Firm represented a plaintiff whose felony conviction was set aside because the police officer who testified against him at trial was implicated in the Rampart police scandal.  Complicating the representation was the fact that the client after serving his sentence had been deported to El Salvador.  Moreover, a material witness, Rafael Perez, whose testimony supported the client’s innocence, was in federal prison in Pennsylvania.  Additionally, the Firm had to delay building its case because the federal court imposed a discovery stay while the high volume of Rampart cases proceeded through a court-supervised mediation program.

Relatively early in the litigation the parties participated in the court-ordered mediation.  The mediation took place before a panel consisting of a retired state appellate court justice, a retired state court judge, and an attorney in private practice.  Following mediation, the panel recommended that the client’s case settle for $350,000 which the City rejected.  While the City initially agreed to a number of large settlements with other plaintiffs, it subsequently took the position with the Firm’s case (and many others) that the City would only settle utilizing a formula that placed a relatively small per-diem value on each day the client was incarcerated.

Once the discovery stay was lifted, the Firm began preparing its case.  Not only did the Firm have to marshal proof that the police framed the client for a crime he did not commit, but the Firm also had to prepare what is referred to as a “Monell” case.  Under the United States Supreme Court ruling in Monell v. Department of Social Services 436 U.S. 658 (1978), to obtain monetary damages against a municipality for the unconstitutional acts of a police officer, it is not enough for a plaintiff to establish the officer’s liability.  Rather, a civil rights plaintiff has the difficult burden of proving his or her injuries resulted from a custom, policy or practice of the entity.

Facing these burdens, the Firm obtained a court order to take Perez’s deposition in federal prison and also set the client’s deposition in El Salvador.  For the client’s deposition, the Firm also had to make arrangements with the United State consular’s office in El Salvador.  The Firm then sent counsel along with a court reporter and an interpreter to El Salvador for the client’s deposition.  Additionally, faced with an upcoming discovery deadline and a very short time frame to depose Perez, the Firm was able to obtain expedited permission from the prison warden to take Perez’s deposition in Pennsylvania.  The Firm was also able to amass substantial evidence that the City’s decision-makers had a policy of deliberately ignoring police misconduct.  After presenting this and other evidence to the City in the context of a mandatory settlement conference shortly before the case went to trial, the City agreed to settle the case for $590,000.

 

Commercial Litigation (Jurisdictional Issue)

In a case involving jurisdictional issues, the Firm’s client was a New Jersey corporation which had contracted with the plaintiff, a Delaware Corporation doing business in Los Angeles, California.  The plaintiff sued the client in Los Angeles for allegedly breaching the contract.  The Firm sought to have the matter dismissed on the grounds that the case had to be tried in New Jersey because the client had insufficient contacts with the state of California.  When the trial court denied the motion, the Firm sought and obtained a writ of mandamus on appeal.  The appellate court agreed with the Firm’s position and directed the trial court to dismiss the action.

 

Music Related (Intellectual Property) Litigation (Jurisdictional Issue)

In another matter involving lack of personal jurisdiction, the Firm defended a Florida corporation being sued by a California resident.  The plaintiff alleged the client was involved in the purported unauthorized use of the name of a particular musical group.  The plaintiff dropped the lawsuit against the client (with the client paying nothing to the plaintiff) after the Firm filed its motion to dismiss the action for lack of personal jurisdiction and improper service of summons.