Justia Entertainment & Sports Law Opinion Summaries
Foxcroft Productions, Inc. v. Universal City Studios LLC
The parties' dispute concerns the definition of a key contract work: "photoplays." The studio argues that the word includes television episodes of Columbo, a long-running television show. The creators argue that the word has many meanings and is ambiguous.The Court of Appeal affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding that the trial court properly interpreted the word "photoplays" as including television episodes, and the trial court properly granted a new trial where the jury verdict relied on two legal errors. The court also concluded that the trial court correctly denied Universal’s motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict. However, the court reversed summary adjudication of the fraud claim because disputed fact questions exist as to the statute of limitations issue. Finally, the trial court properly vacated its rescission of the 1988 amendment. View "Foxcroft Productions, Inc. v. Universal City Studios LLC" on Justia Law
B.D. v. Blizzard Entertainment
Blizzard Entertainment, Inc. (Blizzard) appealed an order denying its motion to compel arbitration. B.D., a minor, played Blizzard’s online videogame “Overwatch,” and used “real money” to make in-game purchases of “Loot Boxes” - items that offer “randomized chances . . . to obtain desirable or helpful ‘loot’ in the game.” B.D. and his father (together, Plaintiffs) sued Blizzard, alleging the sale of loot boxes with randomized values constituted unlawful gambling, and, thus, violated the California Unfair Competition Law (UCL). Plaintiffs sought only prospective injunctive relief, plus attorney fees and costs. Blizzard moved to compel arbitration based on the dispute resolution policy incorporated into various iterations of the online license agreement that Blizzard presented to users when they signed up for, downloaded, and used Blizzard’s service. The trial court denied the motion, finding a “reasonably prudent user would not have inquiry notice of the agreement” to arbitrate because “there was no conspicuous notice of an arbitration” provision in any of the license agreements. The Court of Appeal disagreed: the operative version of Blizzard’s license agreement was presented to users in an online pop-up window that contained the entire agreement within a scrollable text box. View "B.D. v. Blizzard Entertainment" on Justia Law
Brown v. El Dorado Union High School Dist.
Plaintiff Nicholas Brown (Nick), through his mother and Guardian ad Litem Laurie Brown (Laurie), brought a personal injury action against defendant El Dorado Union High School District (the District) after Nick suffered a traumatic brain injury during a football game. After the District brought a summary judgment motion, the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the District on two grounds: (1) the case was barred by the affirmative defense of an express assumption of risk due to a release and waiver Nick and his father signed prior to the football season; and (2) the action was barred by the principle of the primary assumption of risk. Nick appealed, challenging the trial court’s decision to accept a less-than-perfect separate statement of undisputed material facts filed by the District, evidentiary rulings, and the substance of the trial court’s ruling on the motion for summary judgment. The Court of Appeal found the trial court acted within its discretion in accepting the separate statement, Nick failed to sufficiently develop his arguments regarding the court’s evidentiary rulings, and summary judgment was proper due to the Browns’ express assumption of the risks associated with Nick’s participation in the football program. View "Brown v. El Dorado Union High School Dist." on Justia Law
Sirius XM Radio, Inc. v. Hegar
The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals apportioning to Texas all of Sirius XM Radio's receipts from Texas subscribers, holding that Sirius's monthly subscription fees from Texas users were not receipts from a "service performed in this state."To calculate the franchise tax it owes to the state of Texas, Sirius must first calculate its receipts from each service performed in the state. See Tex. Tax Code 171.103(a). Before the Supreme Court, Sirius argued that the service it performs for its Texas subscribers is the production of radio shows and the transmission of a radio signal, almost all of which takes place outside of the state. The Supreme Court agreed and reversed the court of appeals' holding that the service performed by Sirius for Texas subscribers was unscrambling the radio signal. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Sirius had little personnel or equipment in Texas that performs the radio production and transmission services for which its customers pay monthly subscription fees; and (2) therefore, the court of appeals erred in apportioning to Texas all of Sirius's receipts from Texas subscribers. View "Sirius XM Radio, Inc. v. Hegar" on Justia Law
Olson v. Major League Baseball
Plaintiffs, a putative class of fantasy sports players, filed suit alleging claims for fraudulent misrepresentations and omissions, negligent misrepresentations, violations of various state consumer protection laws, and unjust enrichment. Plaintiffs alleged that defendants fraudulently concealed that player statistics were purportedly unreliable because of rule violations in the form of electronic sign-stealing by certain MLB teams during the 2017–2019 baseball seasons. Plaintiffs further alleged that MLB intentionally took no action to address these rule violations in order to protect its financial interest and investment in DraftKings.The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the First Amended Complaint and its denial of plaintiffs' motion for reconsideration, holding that alleged misrepresentations or omissions by organizers and participants in major league sports about the competition itself—such as statements about performance, team strategy, or rules violations—do not give rise to plausible claims sounding in fraud or related legal theories brought by consumers of a fantasy sports competition who are utilizing a league's player statistics.The court also affirmed the district court's order, which concluded that a September 14, 2017 letter from the MLB Commissioner to the New York Yankees General Manager should be unsealed. The court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in unsealing the letter in light of plaintiffs' attempted use of the letter in their proposed Second Amended Complaint and the district court's discussion of the letter in explaining its decision to deny plaintiffs' request for leave to amend in their reconsideration motion, and because MLB disclosed a substantial portion of the substance of the letter in its press release about the investigation. View "Olson v. Major League Baseball" on Justia Law
Gray v. Hudson
The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's order vacating the jury's damages award for copyright infringement and granting judgment as a matter of law to Katy Perry and other defendants. Plaintiffs, Christian hip-hop artists, filed suit alleging that a repeating instrumental figure in one of Katy Perry's songs copied a similar ostinato in one of plaintiffs' songs.The panel held that copyright law protects musical works only to the extent that they are original works of authorship. In this case, the trial record compels the panel to conclude that the ostinatos at issue consist entirely of commonplace musical elements, and that the similarities between them do not arise out of an original combination of these elements. Therefore, the jury's verdict finding defendants liable for copyright infringement was unsupported by the evidence. View "Gray v. Hudson" on Justia Law
USA Gymnastics v. Liberty Insurance Underwriter, Inc.
Larry Nassar sexually assaulted hundreds of girls and young women during his involvement with USA Gymnastics (USAG), the non-profit organization which governs the sport in the United States. As a result of Nassar’s abuse, USAG has been sued several times and investigated by Congress and federal and state authorities. USAG sought financial help with its defense from insurers, including Liberty, with which USAG had a claims-made, directors and officers (D&O) liability insurance policy. An insurance-coverage lawsuit in Indiana state court was removed to federal court.The Nassar-related litigation and investigations forced USAG into bankruptcy. The bankruptcy court issued proposed findings and conclusions, including that the Nassar-related claims were timely made and that a wrongful-conduct exclusion applied to only those claims for which Nassar was criminally convicted. The district court agreed.The Seventh Circuit remanded, first holding that it had jurisdiction because the ruling had the “practical effect” of an injunction under 28 U.S.C. 1292(a)(1). USAG’s claims were timely made during the policy period. The wrongful conduct exclusion, which the court found ambiguous as applied to this case, applies to 10 instances of Nassar’s sexual abuse, but not to claims related to his abuse that were not finally adjudicated. A bodily injury exclusion in the policy does not preclude coverage; coverage is proper for various government investigations and other matters. View "USA Gymnastics v. Liberty Insurance Underwriter, Inc." on Justia Law
Srouy v. San Diego Unified School District
Vanndrya Srouy graduated from Crawford High School (Crawford) in the San Diego Unified School District (the District). While a student at Crawford, he was a member of its varsity football team. After Srouy graduated, he found himself named as a co-defendant in a lawsuit filed by a football referee, John Herlich, who claimed to have been injured when Srouy blocked an opponent, who fell into Herlich, during a school football game. The District (as co-defendant) rejected Srouy’s tender of his defense in the Herlich lawsuit. Srouy then filed underlying lawsuit against the District, claiming the District violated a mandatory duty to defend him in the Herlich lawsuit. Srouy alleged this duty arose under the free school guarantee and the equal protection clause of the California Constitution; title 5, section 350 of the California Code of Regulations; and/or Education Code section 44808. The trial court granted the District’s demurrer without leave to amend and dismissed Srouy’s operative complaint. "Although Srouy’s plight evokes our sympathy," the Court of Appeals found its ability to respond was "constrained by the law, and the allegations of this case do not afford a judicial solution. We leave it to the Legislature to determine whether the needs of student athletes in Srouy’s position are sufficiently addressed by current law, and if not, to craft an appropriate solution." Judgment was affirmed. View "Srouy v. San Diego Unified School District" on Justia Law
Balow v. Michigan State University
Before the end of the 2019–20 academic year, MSU had several Division I sports teams: men’s baseball, basketball, cross country, football, golf, ice hockey, soccer, swimming and diving, tennis, track and field, and wrestling; and women’s basketball, cross country, field hockey, golf, gymnastics, rowing, soccer, softball, swimming and diving, tennis, track and field, and volleyball. In October 2020, MSU announced it would no longer sponsor the men’s and women’s swimming-and-diving teams after the 2020–21 school year. During the 2019–20 school year, the teams had 29 men and 33 women. Women student-athletes sought a preliminary injunction to prevent MSU from eliminating the women’s swimming-and-diving team, arguing that MSU failed to provide women with substantially proportionate athletic opportunities, as required by Title IX. In the 2018–19 school year, 48.8% of undergraduate students were male and 51.2% were female; and, in the 2019–20 school year, 49.1% were male and 50.9% were female.The district court denied a preliminary injunction, finding that the plaintiffs were not likely to succeed on the merits of their Title IX claim. The Sixth Circuit vacated, first finding that MSU did not inflate its number of women athletes. The correct inquiry focuses on the number of participation opportunities, not the gap as a percentage of the athletic program. . A school may fail to achieve substantial proportionality even if its participation gap is only a small percentage of the size of its athletic program View "Balow v. Michigan State University" on Justia Law
Mayes v. La Sierra Univ.
In 2018, plaintiff-appellant Monica Mayes was struck in the face by a foul ball while attending an intercollegiate baseball game between two private universities, Marymount University (Marymount) and defendant-respondent La Sierra University (La Sierra). Mayes suffered skull fractures and brain damage, among other injuries. When struck by the foul ball, Mayes was seated in a grassy area along the third-base line, behind the dugout, which extended eight feet above the ground, and there was no protective netting above the dugout. Mayes sued La Sierra for her injuries, alleging a single cause of action for negligence for its failure to: (1) install protective netting over the dugouts; (2) provide a sufficient number of screened seats for spectators; (3) warn spectators that the only available screened seats were in the area behind home plate; and (4) exercise crowd control in order to remove distractions in the area along the third-base line that diverted spectators’ attention from the playing field. La Sierra moved for summary judgment, claiming that the primary assumption of risk doctrine barred Mayes’s negligence claim. The trial court agreed and granted the motion, observing that the case was “a textbook primary assumption of the risk case.” To this, the Court of Appeal reversed, finding La Sierra did not meet its burden of showing that the primary assumption of risk doctrine barred Mayes’s negligence claim. In addition, Mayes showed there were triable issues of material fact concerning whether La Sierra was negligent for the reasons she alleged in her complaint. View "Mayes v. La Sierra Univ." on Justia Law