news 2015

Firm beats back summary judgment motion in wage theft, retaliation case

December 9, 2015 – PEG&C partner Randy Erlewine today defeated the motion of defendant Jeff Burgess & Associates, Inc., which sought dismissal of the claims of the firm’s client under California’s wage and hour laws for overtime and premium pay.  Marin County Superior Court Judge Roy O. Chernus agreed with the firm that material issues of fact over the client’s duties and responsibilities as the CEO’s executive assistant precluded summary judgment on those claims.  Judge Chernus’ ruling opens the door to the same or similar claims on behalf of other employees of the defendant under California’s so-called PAGA statute; among other things, evidence adduced thus far in the case indicates that the defendant employer treated all of its employees as exempt from the California state statutory law’s wage and hour protections.  In addition to her discrimination and retaliation claims, the firm’s client has alleged a wide-spread pattern and practice of wage theft by her former employer, potentially implicating years of wages of numerous current and former employees.  The case is Bronson v. Jeff Burgess & Associates, Inc., et al., Case No. CV1404660.

Firm launches lawsuit for cult rock band Faith No More

December 4, 2015 – Firm lawyers David Given and Brian Conlon today filed a case in Los Angeles County Superior Court for client, and the three-time Grammy nominated cult rock band, Faith No More. Faith No More alleges that its former lead singer breached a 25-year old settlement agreement he made with the band by assigning his “rights” to Faith No More’s first album We Care A Lot and the use of Faith No More’s name in connection therewith to Manifesto Records. The complaint further alleges that Manifesto Records, and its president, who represented the lead singer in negotiating the very settlement agreement the lead singer is alleged to have breached, intentionally interfered with Faith No More’s contractual relations by inducing the lead singer to breach the contract and distributing We Care A Lot without the band’s consent.

Firm welcomes new associate attorney

December 2, 2015 – The firm today added Anna G. Wald to its staff of associate attorneys.  Anna is a recent graduate of the Master of Laws Program at Berkeley Law.  Anna obtained her Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of Athens School of Law, by reputation the finest law school in the country, where she received the Greek State Foundation (IKY) Scholarship for outstanding academic performance.  Her academic interests included research into the legal issues surrounding Bitcoin as a digital currency, including issues pertaining to privacy, and she has published legal papers on several different subjects.  Anna has been in private law practice in the Bay Area since her admission to the California bar.

Firm moves for class certification against Apple, Path in breach of privacy case

November 12, 2015 – Plaintiffs Jason Green, Stephanie Cooley and Lauren Carter today moved on their own and on behalf of a group of iDevice users for certification of a class of approximately 480,000 users on their claim against app developer Path for invasion of privacy and against Apple for aiding and abetting same.  Plaintiffs’ claims arise from technology built into several versions of the iOS mobile Path app which, upon activation, uploaded users’ address book data without notice.  Today’s motion follows a Oct. 8th court order directing Path to produce both its CEO, Dave Morin, and its CTO, Nathan Folkman, for a sworn deposition.  Those depositions are pending.  The court has set the hearing on plaintiffs’ class certification motion for Dec. 17th.

Court orders employer to turn over records in wage theft case

October 28, 2015 – Marin County Superior Court Judge Roy O. Chernus today ruled in favor of the motion of firm's client to compel her former employer to produce documents and answer written questions under oath relating to her wage theft case.  The firm's client brought a so-called PAGA case on her own behalf and on behalf of all other employees of Jeff Burgess & Associates, Inc., claiming that the company engaged in systematic and persistent wage and hour violations under California law.  In addition to ordering wide-ranging discovery into its digital files, Judge Chernus ordered the employer to turn over information about other employees and to give those employees notice of the client's pending claims, in which they may have an interest.  Judge Chernus directed the employer to comply within 30 days of the court’s order.  

Firm brings elder abuse and financial fraud case against Merrill Lynch

October 8, 2015 – Partner Randy Erlewine today filed a case in Los Angeles County Superior Court for firm client Suzanne Schwartzman in connection with losses sustained in her investment portfolio at Merrill Lynch.  The client hails from the Central Valley, and is an 86-year old widow and 40-plus year customer of Merrill.  She says that despite her conservative investment history and direction, a Merrill broker newly-assigned to her account funneled a significant portion of that portfolio into risky and volatile investments to generate commissions and fees, leading to several hundred thousand dollars in losses.  Ms. Schwartzman has sued Merrill and its broker for elder abuse and related financial improprieties, seeking recovery of those losses as well as for her emotional distress as a result thereof.  A response from the defendants to Ms. Schwartzman’s complaint is due next month. 

Firm lawyers launch false advertising class action against The Honest Company

September 3, 2015 – Firm partner Nick Carlin today filed a class action complaint against The Honest Company, Inc. on behalf of plaintiff Jonathan D. Rubin and a putative class of consumers. The lawsuit contends that The Honest Company marketed a host of products (including hand and dish soap, diapers and sunscreen) as both natural and effective when, in fact, they were not.  The Honest Company, backed by a group of influential venture capital investors as well as television and film star Jessica Alba, who serves as its “Chief Creative Officer” and celebrity spokesperson, was recently in the news when consumers took to the internet to complain that the company’s sunscreen (one of the subjects of Mr. Rubin’s action) was ineffective, leading several to experience severe sunburn and blistering. The complaint asks for a minimum of $5 million in damages and restitution as well as declaratory and injunctive relief on behalf of a nationwide class of purchasers of these products.   

Judge sets trial date in copyright infringement case 

August 19, 2015 – Federal district court judge Lucy D. Koh has set an August 2016 trial date in a copyright infringement action brought by firm client Andrew Paley, a GRAMMY and EMMY award-winning musician and composer, against the producers of a popular online animated children's television series called TUTITU. Exclusively aired via YouTube, with its own YouTube channel, over 1.5 million YouTube subscribers and reported views in excess of one billion, the series featured (until recently) theme music Paley says was based on his song "Breakfast at Stubbs," a version of which was itself featured in Paul Bartel's motion picture "Shelf Life," released in 1993.  The firm has subpoenaed YouTube for financial and other data expected to reveal the inner workings of YouTube's compensation to content creators like TUTITU's producers. Judge Koh also set a November deadline for the parties to conduct a private mediation. A date for that event is pending.  

Randy Erlewine named Northern California Super Lawyer again in 2015

August 11, 2015 – Partner Randy Erlewine has been named a Northern California Super Lawyer for 2015, a recognition bestowed annually on the top 5% of practicing lawyers in the region. Randy has received recognition for his extraordinary work in each of the years 2005 through 2010, as well as in each of the years 2012 through 2014. Randy’s practice includes commercial and employment and labor law matters.

Court sends copyright tourist packing

August 7, 2015 – In a Memorandum Order issued today, Federal District Court Judge Aleta A. Trauger in Nashville sided with the firm’s client, Believe Digital (a digital music aggregator based in France), and its codefendant, SAAR (a music licensor based in Italy), granting dual motions to dismiss the copyright infringement complaint of plaintiff One Media IP (a U.K. entity) against them for lack of personal jurisdiction. Finding that One Media had “not demonstrated that Believe purposefully availed itself of the privilege of transacting business in Tennessee,” the court concluded that One Media “has not shown that it would be reasonable for the court to exercise personal jurisdiction over Believe.” In contrast to the firm’s briefing, the court characterized One Media’s submissions and factual contentions variously as “disingenuous,” “misleading,” “difficult to follow,” “vague,” "evasive" and “exaggerate[d]."  The court pointed to “many instances” in which One Media “fudged the distinction” between entities formed in Tennessee and elsewhere to bolster its position that the case was rightfully before the Nashville court, and agreed with the firm's suggestion that One Media manufactured "an illusory present financial interest in this lawsuit" in a defunct Tennessee entity. Further proceedings in the action are pending.

Court sets "global" mediation of DCH wage theft dispute

August 6, 2015 – Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Emilie Elias today considered the petition for coordination filed by the firm on behalf of client Candace Holzer in her case against auto dealership giant DCH/Lithia Motors for wage theft under California statutory law.  Currently pending are seven separate court cases filed by different employees against one or another of the various DCH entities and dealerships, in addition to a growing number of private individual arbitrations, for similar wage and hour violations.  In a proceeding that lasted most of the morning, Judge Elias agreed with the firm that its follow-on case for employee Ryan Dale (who says DCH/Lithia coerced him and others into signing “settlement” agreements over these claims without the benefit of counsel and in violation of law) should be deemed an “included action” in any coordination.  She retained jurisdiction over all such cases, stayed proceedings in them, and allowed the parties to commence a mediation of all claims before one mediator.  Judge Elias set a deadline of March of next year to conclude that mediation.  A court order is pending. 

Court sides with firm's clients in case of first impression under state statute

July 17, 2015 – In a case of first impression under California’s Talent Scam Prevention Act, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge John P. Farrell overruled the demurrer of defendants to the complaint of the firm’s clients for violation of the Act, rejecting in their entirety defendants’ untimeliness arguments. The firm’s clients are a young aspiring singer-songwriter and her supportive father.  They say that over a two-and-a-half year period they paid over $1.7 million to an alleged former “Backstreet Boy,” Sam Licata (a/k/a Phoenix Stone), and his wife, Sybil Hall, together with their related business entities, some or all of which consisted of supposed “advance fees” for their representation of the young woman in her music career.  (Such fees are unlawful under the Act, giving rise to damages starting at three times the amount of the fees.) In their demurrer, defendants contended that a one-year statute of limitations applied to the claim. Drawing on its research of the Act’s legislative history, the firm made the case that a three-year limitations period should apply. Judge Farrell agreed with the firm, overruling the demurrer and ordering defendants to answer the complaint. The Court also set a jury trial date of next May in the case. 

Firm launches second case in wage theft action against car dealership

June 30, 2015 – The firm has filed a second lawsuit against DCH Auto Group (now owned by Lithia Motors, one of the largest chains of car dealerships in the nation) for claims arising from DCH’s labor practices in the State of California, where it owns and operates over a dozen car dealerships.  In a complaint filed today in Los Angeles County Superior Court, auto mechanic Ryan Dale accuses DCH of fraud and unfair competition, among other things, in connection with DCH’s practice of calling employees into “settlement” meetings with management and coercing those employees to sign away their wage claims for pennies on the dollar, in violation of law.  These “settlement” meetings were apparently in response to allegations which continue to accumulate and are now pending in six separate lawsuits in three different California Superior Courts against DCH alleging systemic and persistent wage and hour law violations.  Employees’ claims include failure to provide statutorily-mandated breaks (and falsifying time records to cover them up), failure to pay minimum wages, and failure to pay all earned wages.  The firm recently sought to have those lawsuits coordinated by one judge; the California Judicial Council will hear the firm’s application to do so in early August.  The firm’s investigation of this matter is ongoing:  for more information about that subject, click here.  

Firm prevails in trademark dispute over popular band name

June 30, 2015 – The firm prevailed today in the case of Wonderbread 5 v. Gilles, a matter pending before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, concerning a dispute over the band name "Wonderbread 5" and the filing of a trademark registration for that name by a disgruntled former band member following his exit from the band. The band (a popular San Francisco-based party band) sought to cancel that registration on grounds of prior use and fraud on the Trademark Office. In its 26-page decision, the TTAB vindicated the band's position in the matter, finding unequivocally that the band partnership owned the name and that the former band member's trademark registration was invalid and must be cancelled. 

Amended pleading expands claims in Endless Jewelry dispute

June 18, 2015 – A Florida state court has granted the firm permission to file an amended complaint in a legal action brought by the firm’s clients against the proprietors of the popular Endless Jewelry line of products.  The amended complaint filed today adds defendants, including the parent entity as well as that entity’s founder and CEO, and asserts additional claims for fraud, breach of fiduciary duty and conversion of ownership interests, among others.  At its core, the current complaint alleges that plaintiffs conceived of, developed and launched the Endless Jewelry business in North and South America based on representations and agreements that they would receive a substantial ownership interest plus other compensation, but were later shut out of involvement in and denied a portion of the ongoing business.  Defendants’ response to the amended complaint is expected next month.

Right of publicity case against grape grower returns to state court

June 17, 2015 – Partners Nick Carlin and David Given prevailed upon federal district court judge Lucy H. Koh today to return to state court model/actress Cyndra Busch’s case against grape grower Jakov Dulcich and Sons and its distributor for claims arising from the unauthorized use of her likeness in their “Pretty Lady” brand of grapes.  Defendants contended that Ms. Busch’s claims belonged in federal court under the federal Copyright Act.  Judge Koh easily dispatched those and other contentions in her 12-page decision, agreeing with the firm that removing the case from state court was untimely and therefore improper.  The firm has since moved for an award of costs and fees for defendants’ improper removal of the action; Judge Koh will hear that motion in October. Meanwhile, the state court judge originally assigned the case in Marin County Superior Court has set a hearing in the action for next month. 

Full throttle on coordination of PAGA cases against DCH Auto Group

June 12, 2015 – The firm applied today to the State of California's Judicial Council to coordinate several PAGA complaints against DCH Auto Group (USA) in the Los Angeles Superior Court.  Six suits are pending in Southern California by current and former employees against the auto sales giant and its affiliated dealerships alleging numerous and persistent violations of the California labor code, including denying employees meal and rest breaks, failing to pay for overtime work, failing to pay minimum wages, failing to reimburse employees for out-of-pocket costs, and falsifying employees’ time records to cover it up. Coordination of the cases expands and consolidates the potential number of dealerships included in issue as well as expands and consolidates the categories of employees covered by the claims to include clerical and office workers, service writers, auto mechanics and technicians, and sales people. The firm’s investigation of this matter is ongoing:  For more information about that subject, click here.  

Judge sets trial date in Spenger's wage theft case, orders settlement conference

June 5, 2015 – Federal district court judge William H. Alsup has set a July 2016 trial date in a class action brought by the firm on behalf of a former employee of famed Spenger’s Fresh Fish Grotto in Berkeley for wage theft.  A recently-filed amended complaint amplified claims previously made against owner and operator McCormick & Schmick and its corporate parent, Landry’s (until 2010, a publicly traded company), for persistent and systematic wage and hour violations under California law.  Hundreds of current and former restaurant employees may have been damaged by these alleged violations; lost wages and penalties may run into the millions of dollars.  Judge Alsup also ordered a settlement conference to be conducted by U.S. Magistrate Judge Joseph C. Spero; a date for that event is pending.  A motion for class certification is expected before the end of the year.

Following breakthrough victory for songwriters, EMI Music Publishing agrees to settle "Daydream Believer" case

May 29, 2015 – In the wake of an early defeat, EMI Music Publishing has agreed to settle firm client Stephanie Ford Stewart’s case against it for unfair business practices in connection with its policy and practice on the payment of foreign royalties.  The client, widow of John Stewart – former Kingston Trio member and composer of The Monkees’ hit song “Daydream Believer” – contended that EMI was unfairly paying its own wholly-owned foreign affiliates (in other words, itself) half of the royalties they collected abroad for “Daydream Believer.” EMI previously won similar cases against the heirs of Duke Ellington and Bert Berns (“Twist and Shout”), and was confident those precedents would control here; however, firm lawyers Nick Carlin and David Given persuaded the Court that Stewart sufficiently alleged that EMI’s conduct was actionable and that the case should go forward on the merits of the client’s claims.  Rather than risk letting a jury evaluate the unfairness of its conduct, EMI quickly agreed to settle the case. The terms of the settlement are confidential. Any composers or songwriters who suspect they are victims of similar misconduct by their music publishers are invited to contact the firm.

Issue joined and case management conference set in Spenger’s wage theft case

May 12, 2015 – Defendants today answered the allegations of an amended complaint filed in San Francisco federal court in a class action brought by the firm on behalf of a former employee of the famed Spenger’s Fresh Fish Grotto.  The restaurant, currently owned and operated by restaurant chain McCormick & Schmick, in turn a wholly owned subsidiary of Landry’s (until 2010, a publicly traded company), has been an East Bay fixture on Fourth Street in Berkeley since the 1930s.  The amended complaint amplifies claims previously made against these two entities for persistent and systematic wage and hour violations under California law.  Hundreds of current and former restaurant employees may have been damaged by these alleged violations.  A recent court order has set a case management conference in the matter for June 4th.

Firm launches infringement case against producer of animated children's show

April 29, 2015 – Firm partners Nick Carlin and David Given filed a complaint for copyright infringement on behalf of Emmy and Grammy award-winning musician and composer Andrew Paley against Twist Animation, Ltd., the producer of the wildly popular online animated children’s series TUTITU TV, for using as its theme music a composition that Paley contends infringes his original song “Breakfast at Stubbs.” Paley’s song was first used in the film Shelf Life, directed by Paul Bartel (Eating Raoul), which hit theatres in 1993 and went on to become a cult classic. Twist began using its theme music for the TUTITU TV programming in 2013, releasing over 850 videos mostly through YouTube; those videos have since been seen a “staggering one billion” times, according to Twist, and the TUTITU TV channel on YouTube has garnered over 1.5 million subscribers. Assignment of the case to a federal district court judge is pending.

Settlement reached in digital download case against UMG, Capitol Records

April 14, 2015 – Firm partners David Given and Nick Carlin joined other court-appointed lead counsel today in their motion for preliminary approval of an $11.5 million settlement reached on behalf of a group of recording artists and others in a class action case against UMG Recordings and Capitol Records over their treatment of income derived from digital downloads and ringtones. The settlement, which followed more than two years of negotiations and four years of hard-fought litigation, includes a fund for claims by class members for past due amounts as well as an increase of 10% in download and ringtone royalty rates. The firm’s clients include the Rick James Estate, David Coverdale (Deep Purple, Whitesnake, Coverdale/Page) and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member Dave Mason (Traffic, Dave Mason Band), who served as class plaintiffs in the case. The court has set a hearing on the motion for April 28th.

UPDATE – April 28, 2015 – The court heard and granted plaintiffs’ motion for preliminary approval today.  At the hearing of the matter, Federal District Court Judge Susan Illston voiced praise for the “wonderful job” the firm and its co-lead counsel did in the case.  In her order entered later in the day, Judge Illston appointed the firm (together with others) class counsel with respect to all further proceedings and scheduled a final approval hearing for April of next year.  Notice to the class is expected to commence shortly.

Firm files civil rights action for death at Martinez jail

April 13, 2015 – The firm filed a complaint today on behalf of Shaun Anderson, the son of a Martinez Jail detainee, Robert Anderson, whose death allegedly resulted from civil rights violations and negligence on the part of jail employees. The late Mr. Anderson initially visited the hospital with symptoms of pneumonia, among other diagnoses, for which he was prescribed medication and care instructions that were largely disregarded upon his return to jail.  Mr. Anderson spent the next several weeks in and (mostly) out of the hospital without access to proper medical care which, the lawsuit contends, ultimately led to his demise. Service of the complaint on the County of Contra Costa, its Sheriff and several other allegedly responsible party defendants is pending.

Firm partner to speak at international law symposium on developments in entertainment industry litigation

April 13, 2015 – Firm partner David Given has been invited to speak at the 6th Annual International Law Symposium on the World of Music, Film, Television, and Sports to be held at the Palms Hotel in Miami Beach, Florida.  David will appear on a panel discussing issues and case law updates in entertainment industry litigation, with a special emphasis on the proceedings and outcome in the recent "Blurred Lines" song copyright infringement case. (The firm has prosecuted several such cases over the years, and has considerable expertise in this area.) The event, which runs for two days April 23rd and 24th, is sponsored by the American Bar Association Forum on the Entertainment and Sports Industries, which David chaired in the early 2000s.

Firm enters Florida case over Endless Jewelry dispute

March 31, 2015 – Partner Randy Erlewine appeared today as counsel of record for plaintiffs in legal action against the proprietors of the popular Endless Jewelry line of products. The case involves the circumstances of the 2014 start-up of a new line of jewelry that, according to public reports, has already become a $25 million a year business and has attracted the interest of investors as well as a "long term partnership" with Jennifer Lopez for a specialty line of branded product. Plaintiffs say they conceived of the concept for the new jewelry line, developed and implemented the business plan to launch it and organized logistics and personnel, after which they were shut out of any further involvement and denied a portion of the ongoing business. In addition to the firm, plaintiffs' legal team includes renowned South Florida litigator Bruce Rogow as well as the prominent Ft. Lauderdale plaintiff law firm of Conrad & Scherer LLP. An amended complaint amplifying plaintiffs' claims is expected shortly. 

Court again sides with plaintiffs in privacy class action against Apple, app developers

March 23, 2015 – Federal District Court Judge Jon S. Tigar today issued a 34-page decision upholding claims against Apple and a dozen of the country’s largest application developers for violations of law in connection with the practice of uploading address book data from users’ iDevices without the users’ authorization or consent.  Today’s order is the third in which Judge Tigar has upheld plaintiffs’ class claims in the case (in which the court appointed the firm lead counsel in Oct. 2013) against defendants’ almost three-year long legal assault.  In today’s order, the court found that plaintiffs adequately stated an “extensive” and, allegedly, false and misleading advertising campaign aimed at convincing the public that Apple’s personal computer devices were (and are) “secure and include comprehensive consumer-privacy protections.”  The court also sustained, as it did before, plaintiffs’ invasion of privacy claims against both the app developers and Apple despite several lines of legal attack, including that the federal Copyright Act preempted those claims in their entirety.  Defendants now have 14 days to answer plaintiffs’ consolidated complaint, after which the case will proceed to the pre-trial discovery stage.

Firm rolls over attempt to throttle car dealership proceeding

March 12, 2015 – Firm partner Nick Carlin succeeded today in overcoming multiple objections to moving forward with client Candace Holzer’s wage theft case against DCH Auto Group, one of the largest auto dealerships in the nation, a case brought under California’s Private Attorneys General Act and seeking broad compensatory relief.  Siding with Ms. Holzer, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Michael Johnson rejected DCH’s attempt to compel arbitration of Ms. Holzer’s wage and hour claims on behalf of herself and all other non-exempt employees throughout the State of California; Judge Johnson also refused to grant a stay of Ms. Holzer’s case, as requested by DCH on multiple grounds, including the existence of pending arbitration proceedings by others on their own individual wage theft claims.  The court’s order is pending.  For more information about the case, which now enters the pre-trial discovery phase, click here. The firm’s investigation of this matter is ongoing:  For more information about that subject, click here.  

Federal court approves $4 million bank overdraft fee settlement

March 4, 2015 – At a hearing conducted this morning, a federal district court in Miami granted final approval to a $4 million class-action settlement with M&T Bank. Firm partner Nick Carlin appeared as class counsel on behalf of the bank’s customers. The case, originally filed in 2009, involved the bank's practice of posting debit card charges in high to low order, rather than chronologically, in order to maximize overdraft fees charged to customers, a practice one court has described as an "accounting scam." An order confirming the court’s approval is pending. Beginning in 2009, the firm was instrumental in commencing and prosecuting cases resulting in over $430 million in settlement proceeds for bank customers who were the victims of overdraft fee abuse, work cited by the Consumer Attorneys of California when it named Nick Carlin and David Given “Consumer Attorneys of the Year” finalists in 2012. 

UPDATE – March 13, 2015 – The court entered its order and judgment today giving final approval to the settlement of this class action.  In his order of final approval, the judge complimented the firm, finding that it “undertook a risky and undesirable case and, through diligence, perseverance, and skill, obtained an outstanding result. [It is] to be commended.”

Federal court green-lights Daydream Believer's case for unfair business practices

March 2, 2015 – In a carefully reasoned and groundbreaking 36-page decision issued today, U.S. Magistrate Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley agreed with the arguments made by firm partners Nicholas Carlin and David Given and gave the go-ahead to a lawsuit filed by firm client Stephanie Ford Stewart against EMI Music Publishing, the world’s largest music publisher, challenging EMI’s practice of paying its own foreign affiliates 50% of foreign royalties before remitting the balance to itself, to split 50/50 with its legacy songwriters. Stewart, the widow of John Stewart, former member of the Kingston Trio and composer of hit tunes such as The Monkees’ classic "Daydream Believer," alleges that EMI's self-dealing results in a drastic reduction in her (and others') share of such royalties. Judge Corley ruled that Stewart adequately alleged that EMI engaged in unfair business practices and breached the covenant of good faith and fair dealing, stating “the implied covenant claim asserts that Screen-Gems EMI has wronged Plaintiff by paying fees to foreign sub-publishers that are grossly above market rate, thereby depriving Plaintiff of the full benefit of the 50% net receipts royalty.” Judge Corley also ruled that Stewart adequately alleged that Screen-Gems EMI, the U.S. EMI entity that Stewart’s publishing contract was with, and the EMI foreign affiliates currently retaining 50% of the foreign royalties, are in reality a single enterprise and that money earned by one is money earned by all.  Stewart's case is the first in the U.S. to successfully challenge the practice of music publishers double dipping in the collection of foreign royalties for legacy songwriters with so-called "net receipts" language in their publishing agreements. In a U.K. case from the 1980s, Elton John prevailed against his music publisher on similar claims; however, in this country, songwriters have struggled. In denying EMI’s motion to dismiss Stewart’s case, Judge Corley noted that none of the U.S. cases alleged, as Stewart does here, that the EMI entities were a single enterprise, or that EMI breached the covenant of good faith and fair dealing.

Firm launches wage theft case against famed Berkeley restaurant

February 23, 2015 – The firm today filed a 23-page federal court complaint against the owner and operator (together with the corporate parent) of Spenger’s Fresh Fish Grotto, the popular seafood restaurant located in Berkeley, on behalf of a putative class of the restaurant's workers. The class action complaint alleges a pattern and practice of unlawful conduct, including forcing employees to work off-the-clock and without compensation, failing to provide statutorily required breaks, failing to provide accurate and complete wage statements and engaging in fraudulent recordkeeping. The court has set the first hearing in the case for May.

Judge favorably inclined toward deal in Warner digital download case

January 8, 2015 – Partner David Given appeared today before Federal District Judge Richard Seeborg in support of the settlement made between a group of recording artists and Warner Music Group in a class case initiated over the treatment of monies derived from digital downloads and ringtones. The settlement, concluded following intense negotiations between a team of lawyers representing the record label and PEG&C and the other lead law firms representing the artists, provided an $11.5 million fund for pre-digital age artists to make a claim for past amounts based on their download activity together with an uplift in the royalty rate paid to artists by WMG on download income.  At the conclusion of the hearing, Judge Seeborg said he found the settlement fair, adequate and reasonable and indicated that he would approve it; an order is pending.

UPDATE – January 12, 2015 – Judge Seeborg entered his order today giving final approval to the settlement of this class action. In a related order entered the same day, Judge Seeborg approved the request for reimbursement of costs and payment of attorneys' fees to class counsel, complimenting the firm's "skillful handling of the difficult factual and legal issues presented...and the quality of the result achieved," in the case.

Firm changes name and address, improves coffee service

January 2, 2015 – Effective today, the firm will be known as Phillips, Erlewine, Given & Carlin LLP. The firm's offices are now located in the Presidio of San Francisco at 39 Mesa Street, Suite 201. The firm will feature freshly-ground and brewed Fike Farms (Kona) coffee at its new location.