news 2017

Firm launches breach of contract and fraud action against PopSugar and Ebates

April 11, 2017 – Firm client Pop Middle East, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Nervora, Inc., a Dubai-based publisher specializing in premier digital content and advertising experiences in the fashion and lifestyle sectors, today filed a six-plus million dollar lawsuit against Bay Area online lifestyle platform PopSugar and leading cash-back shopping site Ebates, in connection with a multi-year license agreement for the ShopStyle brand, a popular online fashion marketplace.  In its complaint filed in the federal district court in San Francisco, Pop Middle East says that PopSugar induced it, via financial disclosures and other assurances which Pop Middle East later learned were false and inaccurate, to become the exclusive licensee of ShopStyle in the Middle East and North Africa, charged with managing and promoting the brand through an Arabic-language site that PopSugar agreed to develop and launch. PopSugar failed to develop or launch that site, however, and earlier this month purported to unilaterally terminate the parties’ agreement without cause or reason of any kind.  The latter action followed on the heels of the public announcement of ShopStyle’s acquisition by Ebates.  The firm’s client contends it has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in performing its obligations under the parties’ agreement, and has potentially lost millions of dollars as a result of its counterparties’ fraud and bad faith.

Appellate court sides with firm client FAITH NO MORE in anti-SLAPP spat

April 4, 2017 – The state Court of Appeal in Los Angeles today affirmed a trial court’s rejection of an anti-SLAPP (“Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation”) motion made in a case brought by the firm for cult-rock band FAITH NO MORE against defendants Manifesto Records and its principal, Evan Cohen.  The parties’ dispute centers on Manifesto and Cohen’s alleged interference with the band’s 1989 settlement agreement with a former member that covered rights in and to the band’s seminal 1985 debut album, “We Care A Lot,” which Manifesto rereleased on its label in 2014 without the band’s knowledge or consent.  In a thorough 22-page opinion, a three-judge panel of the court unanimously rejected defendants’ arguments that the band’s claim that Manifesto and Cohen deliberately interfered with that agreement lacked merit, finding that the band “stated and substantiated a legally sufficient claim for intentional inference with contractual relations” against them.  The court also disposed of Manifesto and Cohen’s lone legal defense to that claim, holding that the federal Copyright Act did not preempt the band’s interference claim.  The court’s decision clears the way for the case to proceed.  A further case management conference in the trial court is scheduled for May 3rd.  In August of last year, the band authorized a remastered version of “We Care A Lot”, released on Koolarrow Records and including nine bonus tracks of original demos, new mixes and old live recordings.

Court will hear class certification motion against Apple for false advertising claim

March 8, 2017 – Federal district court judge Jon S. Tigar today ordered Apple, Inc., to respond to the motion against it, first made in August of last year, seeking to certify a class of iDevice users who overpaid for Apple products as a result of Apple’s allegedly false and deceptive assurances to consumers of security and privacy in the personal data they stored on those devices.  The case against Apple arose in the context of widespread data harvesting from iDevices by several technology companies developing apps for Apple devices like the iPhone and iPad.  (The parties in that case recently announced a settlement of those claims.  A motion to approve that settlement and to begin the process of notice to the class is expected shortly.)  Tens of millions of Apple consumers are potentially covered by the proposed class.  Judge Tigar has set a hearing on the matter for May 31st at 9:30 a.m.  The firm serves as co-lead counsel in the case.  For more information about the case, click here.

Court preliminarily approves DCH mechanics settlement  

February 24, 2017 – Firm partner Nicholas Carlin announced today that Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Ann I. Jones granted the firm's motion for preliminary approval of the settlement agreement reached in the firm's wage theft class action against DCH Auto Group and its parent entity Lithia Motors, Inc., the eighth largest automotive retailer in the U.S.  The court's ruling found that the settlement of over $4 million or about $10,000 per class member – a result of years of litigation and months of exhaustive mediation – was reasonable.  The Court also granted conditional class certification for the class of approximately 400 California based auto mechanics, and appointed the firm class counsel.  

UPDATE – March 9, 2017 – The court entered its order granting preliminary approval of this settlement today.  The class administrator has begun the process of giving notice to the class.  For more information about the settlement, click here.  For more information about the DCH case, click here

Firm files fraud action for client against BAE Systems in Port of SF dispute

February 15, 2017 – Firm client Puglia Engineering today filed a $10+ million dollar lawsuit against multinational defense contractor BAE Systems and various of its related entities.  The claims arise over Puglia’s agreement to take control of the BAE Systems dry dock facility located at Pier 70, which is leased from the Port of San Francisco. As recounted in its complaint for fraud and securities law violations, Puglia agreed to acquire the facility by purchasing all of the stock of a BAE subsidiary; however, when Puglia began providing services to the site in January of this year, Puglia discovered that, contrary to BAE’s representations, BAE had failed to maintain, repair and dredge the facility in accordance with its lease obligations to the Port, rendering large portions of it unusable.  Based on these discoveries, Puglia seeks to rescind the transaction.  When the Port discovered these circumstances, it put the parties on notice that the Port had “suffered a loss of revenue due to the decline of its assets resulting from the tenant’s failure to perform the repair and maintenance obligations” of its lease.  BAE disclaimed any responsibility to the Port for this loss.  The Pier 70 facility, the oldest continuously operating private shipyard in the country, currently employs roughly 240 workers.  The lawsuit also names the Port of San Francisco as a defendant, solely on a declaratory relief claim. Puglia is represented by firm partner Randy Erlewine. 

Firm partner confirmed to speak at South by Southwest music conference

January 25, 2017 – David Given will appear as a panelist at the South by Southwest music conference this year.  Entitled “Death, Taxes and Legacy Management,” David’s panel will consider legal and business issues that arise in connection with estate planning and legacy management for talent in the music industry.  The panel is scheduled for Friday, March 17th beginning at 12:30 p.m. at the Austin Convention Center.  In addition to continuing to offer advice to living artists on the disposition of their creative property and royalty interests, David’s practice has included representation of significant estates or the principal beneficiaries of those estates, including those of Jerry Garcia, jazz great Vince Guaraldi, as well as famed authors Alan Watts and Maya Angelou.

Firm to defend DEAD KENNEDYS in copyright infringement dispute

January 20, 2017 – Federal district court judge George Wu today granted the motion of DEAD KENNEDYS to intervene to defend an on-going copyright infringement action over artwork made for and used by the band dating to their seminal punk rock album In God We Trust, Inc. and single Too Drunk To Fuck, both released in 1981.  Artist Winston Smith sued retailer Supreme last year, claiming the cutting-edge brand had used three copyrighted images from those recordings’ covers on apparel it manufactured and sold in 2014 without his knowledge or permission.  As it turned out, the band authorized the use of those images in written agreements, and advised Smith of that fact, at around that same time.  Moreover, Supreme promoted the apparel under the DEAD KENNEDYS moniker, and featured the name of the band and the titles of its biggest hits, on the apparel in question.  Following earlier proceedings in which the firm convinced Judge Wu that the band was a required party to the case, the firm successfully moved to include DEAD KENNEDYS as a defendant.  The band contends that it owns at least two and perhaps all three of the images in issue, which were created in collaboration with band members, and has in any event had an agreement with Smith to use the images in connection with band-related merchandise dating back 30+ years, pursuant to which the band has consistently paid Smith including on the Supreme deal.  The case is currently set for trial beginning May 30th. 

Firm forces disclosure in DCH Auto wage theft case

January 11, 2017 – Firm partner Randy Erlewine today prevailed upon a state court judge to compel DCH Auto Group and its related entities to disclose employee information in the firm’s ongoing wage theft class action against them.  In a carefully considered opinion, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Gail Ruderman Feuer sided with the firm’s clients, a putative class of approximately 2,000 of the auto dealership chain’s current and former clerical and other non-mechanic employees, ruling that the dealership chain must supplement discovery responses and provide employee contact information following an opt-out opportunity.  Judge Feuer also rejected the argument that, after a stay in discovery was vacated, objections to further discovery responses were warranted because of the pendency of other actions filed against it in the interim.  For more information on the case, click here

Firm moves for preliminary approval of DCH mechanics settlement

January 3, 2017 – In his capacity as co-lead counsel, firm partner Nicholas Carlin today filed a motion for preliminary approval of the settlement the firm concluded last year on behalf of a class of approximately 400 California-based auto mechanics with DCH Auto Group and its related corporate entities and parent, Lithia Motors, Inc. (the eighth largest automotive retailer in the U.S.), in its wage theft case against them.  The settlement agreement comes after several months of intensive mediation with a well-respected retired California state court judge, and provides for a total monetary recovery of over $4 million, or about $10,000 per class member.  The California Judicial Council has appointed Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Ann I. Jones to preside over coordinated proceedings in the matter.  A hearing on the firm’s motion before Judge Jones is pending. 

Firm expands staff, adds new lawyers

January 3, 2017 – The firm today added Pola C. Stein to its staff of full-time associate attorneys. Pola is a 2011 graduate of Cornell Law School.  For the past five years she has served as a public defender, most recently in the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office.  Pola will focus on employment and intellectual property matters.  Pola joins another Cornell Law graduate, Manuel Rodriguez, who became of counsel to the firm late last year.  Manuel has worked at several large law firms in the Bay Area, and will continue to concentrate his practice on representing technology-based companies as well as individual investors and investment funds on corporate, securities and intellectual property transactions.