Articles Posted in Entertainment & Sports Law

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Plaintiff Teresa Martine hurt her knee while skiing at Heavenly Valley Ski Resort and was being helped down the mountain by a ski patrolman when the rescue sled in which she was riding went out of control and hit a tree. Martine sued resort owner Heavenly Valley Limited Partnership (Heavenly) for negligence and for damages arising from her injuries. Heavenly moved for summary judgment arguing that there was no evidence that its employee had been negligent in taking Martine down the mountain thus causing the sled to hit the tree and that, in any event, Martine’s action was barred by the doctrine of primary assumption of risk. The trial court granted Heavenly’s motion and entered judgment accordingly. Martine argued on appeal: (1) there was evidence to support her claim that employee was negligent; (2) her action was not barred by the doctrine of primary assumption of risk; (3) the trial court erred in not allowing her to amend her complaint to allege negligence and damages arising from a second injury she incurred the same day while being taken off the mountain; and (4) the trial court erred in not granting her motion for a new trial. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "Martine v. Heavenly Valley L.P." on Justia Law

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Defendants challenged an order of the superior court partially denying their motion to strike under the anti-SLAPP statute in a putative class action brought by plaintiffs against defendants and others for marketing a posthumous Michael Jackson album. The Court of Appeal held that the challenged representation―that Michael Jackson was the lead singer on the three Disputed Tracks―did not simply promote sale of the album, but also stated a position on a disputed issue of public interest. In this case, the identity of the artist on the three Disputed Tracks was a controversial issue of interest to Michael Jackson fans and others who care about his musical legacy. Therefore, defendants' statements about the identity of the artist were not simply commercial speech but were subject to full First Amendment protection. Furthermore, they were outside the scope of an actionable unfair competition or consumer protection claim. Accordingly, the court reversed the trial court's order as to this issue. View "Serova v. Sony Music Entertainment" on Justia Law

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After crossing the finish line at the 2011 Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Half Marathon, Hass suffered a cardiac arrest and died. Hass’s wife and his minor children filed a wrongful death action, alleging that race-affiliated individuals and entities, including the organizer, were negligent in the organization and management of the race, particularly with respect to the provision of emergency medical services. After initially concluding that the action was barred under theories of primary assumption of the risk and express waiver, the trial court reversed itself, finding that primary assumption of the risk was inapplicable and that the plaintiffs should have been allowed to amend their complaint to plead gross negligence, which was outside of the scope of the written waiver and release. The court of appeal affirmed in part, agreeing that summary judgment was not warranted. The release at issue is not void on public policy grounds and was intended to be, and was accepted as, a comprehensive assumption of all risks associated with race participation and constituted a complete defense to a wrongful death action based on ordinary negligence. However, the trial court erred in requiring amendment of the complaint to plead gross negligence because a triable issue of material fact exists on this issue. View "Hass v. RhodyCo Productions" on Justia Law

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As a high school student in North Dakota, Dagny Knutson was an internationally ranked swimmer. She committed to Auburn University because one of its coaches, Paul Yetter. In March 2010, Mark Schubert, USA Swimming’s head coach, told Knutson that Yetter was leaving Auburn University. Schubert advised Knutson to swim professionally rather than at Auburn or another university. He orally promised her support to train at a “Center for Excellence” formed by USA Swimming in Fullerton, California, including room, board, tuition, and a stipend until she earned her degree. At Schubert’s suggestion, Knutson retained a sports agent, and shortly thereafter, she turned professional, accepted prize money, and signed an endorsement agreement. A few months after Knutson moved to Fullerton, Schubert’s employment was terminated by USA Swimming. Schubert told Knutson not to worry, and assured her that USA Swimming would keep the promises he had made to her. However, Knutson became concerned because she was not receiving any money from USA Swimming. Knutson retained attorney Foster to represent her in an attempt to get USA Swimming to honor the oral agreement made by Schubert. Foster did not disclose to Knutson his close personal ties to the aquatics world, or that he had long-time relationships with USA Swimming, and other swimming organizations. Knutson testified that Foster never told her that he represented Schubert or that he declined to represent Schubert against USA Swimming because he felt there was a conflict of interest due to his relationships with people within USA Swimming. In September 2014, Knutson sued Foster for fraudulent concealment and breach of fiduciary duty. After a three-week trial, the jury found in favor of Knutson and awarded her economic and noneconomic damages. The trial court granted Foster’s motion for a new trial on the grounds that Knutson did not prove Foster’s conduct was the cause of Knutson’s damages and that Knutson had failed to offer substantial evidence of her emotional distress damages. The Court of Appeal reversed and reinstated the jury's verdict because the motion for a new trial was granted on erroneous legal theories. The Court held: (1) claims of fraudulent concealment and intentional breach of fiduciary duty by a client against his or her attorney are subject to the substantial factor causation standard, not the “but for” or “trial within a trial” causation standard employed in cases of legal malpractice based on negligence; and (2) where the plaintiff’s emotional distress consisted of anxiety, shame, a sense of betrayal, and a continuing impact on personal relationships, the testimony of the plaintiff alone was sufficient to support emotional distress damages. View "Knutson v. Foster" on Justia Law

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Larry Tripplett, a former defensive tackle for the Indianapolis Colts, Buffalo Bills and Seattle Seahawks, petitioned for review of the California Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board’s (WCAB) decision to deny his claim for worker’s compensation for cumulative injuries he suffered during his career. Tripplett’s primary contention was that the WCAB erred because he satisfied his evidentiary burden of proving he was hired by the Indianapolis Colts in California for purposes of Labor Code sections 3600.5(a), and 53051, and thus was eligible for workers compensation under California law. Although the workers compensation judge (WCJ) found jurisdiction was established by the fact Tripplett’s agent had “negotiated” his contract with Indianapolis while located in California, the WCAB reversed, suggesting instead the salient question in assessing whether Tripplett was “hired” in California was whether he or his agent executed the written employment agreement in this state. The California Court of Appeal agreed with the WCAB that Tripplett was hired when he executed the written employment agreement offered by Indianapolis. Tripplett thus failed to satisfy his burden of proving he was hired in California. Tripplett also claimed the WCAB erred by concluding there was no other basis for establishing subject matter jurisdiction over his cumulative injury claim. He argued his residency in the state, combined with his participation in two games in California during his career, demonstrated he had a greater than de minimus contact with the State of California. The Court of Appeal found no merit to this contention: Tripplett’s residency in California provided no basis for establishing subject matter jurisdiction over his injury, and the WCAB did not err in concluding that his participation in two games in California, out of more than 100 in his career, reflected no significant connection between this state and his cumulative injury. View "Tripplett v. Workers' Compensation Appeals Bd." on Justia Law

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The First Amendment protects FX's portrayal of Olivia de Havilland in a docudrama without her permission. De Havilland filed suit against FX and the creators and producers of the television miniseries Feud: Bette and Joan, alleging causes of action for violation of the statutory right of publicity and the common law tort of misappropriation. De Havilland also alleged claims of false light invasion of privacy based on FX's portrayal in the docudrama of a fictitious interview and the de Havilland character's reference to her sister as a "bitch" when in fact the term she used was "dragon lady." The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court's order denying FX's special motion to strike under California's anti-SLAPP statute. The court held that, assuming a docudrama was a "use" for purposes of the right of publicity, Feud was speech that was fully protected by the First Amendment, which safeguards the storytellers and artists who take the raw materials of life -- including the stories of real individuals, ordinary or extraordinary -- and transformed them into art, be it articles, books, movies, or plays. Furthermore, the fact that Feud's creators did not purchase or otherwise procure de Havilland's "right" to her name or likeness did not change the analysis. In this case, Feud's portrayal of de Havilland was transformative. The court also held that de Havilland failed to carry her burden of proving with admissible evidence that she will probably prevail on her false light claim, and thus de Havilland's cause of action for unjust enrichment also failed. View "De Havilland v. FX Networks, LLC" on Justia Law

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This case arose from a dispute between the parties over licensing agreements involving the motion picture Gone in 60 Seconds. The trial court entered judgment for Classic and ordered that Eleanor Licensing retain possession of a vehicle identified as "Eleanor No. 1," which had been manufactured by Classic pursuant to a licensing agreement between the parties; quieting title to the vehicle in Eleanor Licensing; directing Classic to perform according to the terms of the licensing agreement and transfered legal title to Eleanor No. 1 to Eleanor Licensing; and awarding damages and attorney fees. The court held that the November 1, 2007 License Agreement was supported by adequate consideration; the contract-based claims, to the extent otherwise valid, were barred by the statute of limitations; the causes of action for return of personal property and quiet title were timely filed; the alter ego finding was not supported by substantial evidence; Jason Engel was properly named as a defendant in the causes of action to quiet title and for return of personal property; Tony Engel was a proper defendant in the quiet title cause of action; and the Engels were not liable for attorney fees. The court reversed in part and affirmed in part the judgment and postjudgment order. View "Eleanor Licensing LLC v. Classic Recreations LLC" on Justia Law

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San Francisco Baseball Associates (the Giants) unsuccessfully moved to compel arbitration of the wage and hour claims of Melendez, a security guard employed at AT&T Park. Melendez argued that he and other security guards were employed “intermittingly” for specific assignments and were discharged “at the end of a homestand, at the end of a baseball season, at the end of an inter-season event like a fan fest, college football game, a concert, a series of shows, or other events,” and, under Labor Code section 201, were entitled to but did not receive immediate payment of their final wages upon each “discharge.” The Giants argued that immediate payment was not required because, under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between the Giants and the union, Melendez and all such security guards are not intermittent employees but are “year-round employees who remain employed with the Giants until they resign or are terminated pursuant to the CBA.” The Giants argued that the action is preempted by section 301 of the federal Labor Management Relations Act, 29 U.S.C. 185(a). The court of appeal affirmed, finding that the dispute is not within the scope of the CBA's arbitration provision but that arbitration is required by section 301. View "Melendez v. San Francisco Baseball Associates" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against Marlon Wayans and others, alleging, inter alia, that he was the victim of racial harassment during his day of work as an extra on Wayans's movie. Wayans moved to strike plaintiff's claims as an anti-SLAPP suit (strategic lawsuit against public participation), Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16, arguing that plaintiff's claims arose from Wayans's constitutional right of free speech. The trial court entered judgment for Wayans and awarded him attorney fees. Under the two step-process applicable to anti-SLAPP motions, the court concluded that Wayans met his burden of showing that the claims arose from a protected activity because all of the alleged misconduct is based squarely on Wayans's exercise of free speech—the creation and promotion of a full-length motion picture, including the off-camera creative process. In regard to step two, the court concluded that plaintiff failed to meet his burden of demonstrating a probability of prevailing on his claims. The court rejected plaintiff's claims of misappropriation, false light, quasi-contract, and unjust enrichment based on an Internet posting. The court also rejected plaintiff's claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress based on both the on-set comments and conduct, as well as the Internet posting. Because the court held that the trial court properly granted Wayans's anti-SLAPP motion, the court further held that the award of attorney fees was proper. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Daniel v. Wayans" on Justia Law

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Kurt Knutsson is a technology reporter who created “Kurt the CyberGuy” video segments for use on television news programs and station websites. Knutsson and his company, Woojivas, Inc., entered into a written agreement with Los Angeles television station KTLA. Pursuant to the agreement, website material Knutsson created was distributed to the websites of certain television stations in other cities, including those of stations owned and operated by LTV. At issue is whether, for purposes of the common law tort of misappropriation of name and likeness, plaintiffs consented to LTV’s use of the CyberGuy material, including placing links to it on webpages along with links to material created by a reporter who was hired following the termination of Knutsson’s contract. The court concluded that plaintiffs cannot demonstrate lack of consent to LTV’s use of the CyberGuy material, so summary judgment in favor of LTV was warranted on the common law misappropriation of name and likeness cause of action. This determination requires that plaintiffs also cannot prevail on the two other causes of action at issue. Accordingly, the court concluded that the trial court erred in denying summary judgment to LTV and granted LTV's petition. View "Local TV v. Super. Ct." on Justia Law