Articles Posted in California Court of Appeal

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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

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Plaintiff Paul Brodeur is a well-known author in the environmental field, pointing out health dangers of the use of various electrical devices and other household items. Defendants are producers and distributors of the motion picture American Hustle. A character in the film, Rosalyn, says that she read, in a magazine article by plaintiff, that a microwave oven takes all of the nutrition out of food. Based on Rosalyn's statement, plaintiff filed suit alleging causes of action for libel, defamation, slander and false light, asserting that he had never made the quoted statement. Plaintiff further alleged that, by misquoting him, defendants suggested to the movie audience that he made a scientifically unsupportable statement, damaging his reputation. The court held that plaintiff‘s causes of action arise from defendants‘ protected activity within the meaning of the anti-SLAPP statute, Code Civ. Proc. 425.16, subd.(b)(1), where plaintiff, by his own account, is a public figure, and the views expressed in his pioneering articles on the health hazards associated with exposure to microwave radiation were plainly a matter of public interest in the 1970‘s. Further, plaintiff's claims that the government safety standard for microwave ovens was inadequate have been rejected by numerous authorities. The court also concluded that plaintiff has failed to produce admissible evidence that, as his unverified complaint alleges, he has never written an article or ever declared in any way that a microwave takes all the nutrition out of food. Accordingly, the court reversed the order denying the motion to strike. View "Brodeur v. Atlas Entm't, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff appealed the trial court's grant of summary judgment in favor of James Cameron and Lightstorm Entertainment, Inc. on claims that defendants fraudulently expressed interest in developing plaintiff’s science fiction story KRZ and used parts of that story in Cameron’s 2009 film Avatar. Avatar is a science fiction film set in the future on Pandora, a moon of a fictional gas giant planet, occupied by an indigenous species of humanoids called Na’vi and by humans affiliated with the Resources Development Administration, and its “Sec-Ops” security force. KRZ takes place in the future mostly on Europa, an ice-covered moon of Jupiter. KRZ tells the story of a corporate assassin who works for the Malloc super-corporation, which harvests organisms from ocean vents beneath Europa’s icy surface. To do so, the corporation uses humans as well as organic-bionic hybrid robots called “KRY’s,” which have “Y’s” on their foreheads and “limitation chips” that block emotions and free will. KRZ is a robot with a smaller limitation chip than KRY’s and is self-aware and self-motivated. The court concluded that plaintiff's contract and fiduciary duty claims failed because there was no similarity between the projects as a matter of law; plaintiff's fraud claims fail because he has not offered evidence raising a triable issue of material fact; and plaintiff's appeal of the trial court's denial of his motion for discovery sanctions is moot. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Ryder v. Lightstorm Enter." on Justia Law

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The adult children and heirs of songwriter Terry Gilkyson, a member of the band The Easy Riders, filed suit against Disney, alleging that Disney had breached its contractual obligation to pay royalties in connection with the licensing or other disposition of the mechanical reproduction rights to Gilkyson’s songs. The trial court dismissed the lawsuit after sustaining Disney’s demurrer to the first amended complaint without leave to amend, ruling the Gilkyson heirs’ causes of action were barred by the applicable statutes of limitations. The court concluded that the trial court erred in sustaining the demurrer pursuant to the statute-of-limitations bar where the continuous doctrine applies to plaintiffs' contract claims. In this case, Disney’s obligation to pay royalties based on its licensing or other disposition of the mechanical reproduction rights to Gilkyson’s songs was unquestionably a continuing one. While portions of the Gilkyson heirs’ contract claim are undoubtedly time-barred, the action is timely as to those breaches occurring within the four-year limitations period preceding the filing of the original lawsuit. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded with directions. View "Gilkyson v. Disney Enter." on Justia Law

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Donald T. Sterling seeks to regain ownership of the Los Angeles Clippers (Clippers), a professional basketball team Steven Ballmer purchased on August 12, 2014. A charge before the NBA’s board of governors indicated that on April 26, 2014, a tape recording of Donald’s “deeply offensive, demeaning, and discriminatory views toward African Americans, Latinos, and ‘minorities’ in general” was made public. Donald was subsequently banned from participating in the league and the NBA sought to terminate the Sterlings' ownership of the Clippers. Due to Donald's refusal to sign the sale agreement, his wife removed him as trustee of the Sterling Family Trust and filed an ex parte petition seeking confirmation of Donald's removal as trustee and instructions relevant to the sale. At issue on appeal is the probate court's order following the ex parte petition. The court concluded that the evidence credited by the probate court overwhelmingly showed that Donald was properly removed as trustee; the credited evidence overwhelmingly supported the probate court’s conclusion that exigent circumstances warranted the sale of the Clippers to prevent extraordinary loss to the trust; the probate court’s sanctioning the sale was correct even though Donald, who initially agreed to the sale, purportedly revoked the trust in an effort to block the sale; and Donald fails to demonstrate any legal error and fails to consider the facts in accordance with the proper standards on appeal. Accordingly, the court affirmed the probate court's order. View "Sterling v. Sterling" on Justia Law