Justia Entertainment & Sports Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal
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In this case, the National Hockey League and associated parties (plaintiffs) sued their insurer, Factory Mutual Insurance Company (defendant), over losses incurred due to the COVID-19 pandemic under a commercial insurance policy. The plaintiffs claimed that their policy covered physical loss or damage to property due to COVID-19 and sought to overturn a lower court order that struck down most of their coverage theories.The Court of Appeal of the State of California, Sixth Appellate District, found that while the plaintiffs had adequately alleged physical loss or damage from the coronavirus, their insurance policy's contamination exclusion unambiguously excluded coverage for losses due to viral contamination. The court concluded that the policy excluded both the physical loss or damage caused by viral contamination and the associated business interruption losses.The plaintiffs had alleged that the virus physically damaged their property by changing the chemical composition of air and altering the molecular structure of physical surfaces. They also claimed that they had to close their hockey arenas, cancel games, limit fan access, and undertake various remedial measures to mitigate the virus's impact. However, under the terms of their insurance policy, the court found that these losses were not covered because they resulted from viral contamination, which was excluded from coverage under their policy. Thus, the court denied the plaintiffs' petition for review. View "San Jose Sharks, LLC v. Super. Ct." on Justia Law

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Thomas was recruited to play on the women’s soccer team at the University of California, Berkeley (UCB), played on the team during her freshman year and, in the spring of that year, was released from the team. She sued UCB, the team’s head coach (McGuire), and the Director of Athletics (Knowlton), alleging that she turned down a scholarship to another school based on McGuire’s recruitment efforts and that McGuire failed to disclose his “abusive” coaching style and the team’s culture of intimidation and fear. After her federal suit was dismissed, Thomas sued in state court, alleging claims against McGuire and Knowlton for violation of the Unruh Act and negligence; against McGuire for breach of fiduciary duty and fraud; and against UCB under Government Code section 815.2.The court of appeal affirmed the dismissal of the suit, reinstating only a claim of sexual harassment (Civil Code section 51.9) against McGuire and UCB. Thomas failed to state a negligence claim against McGuire, Knowlton, or UCB. Thomas cites no authority imposing on a university a duty to protect students from harm of a non-physical nature. Nor did Thomas establish a breach of fiduciary duty. The court also rejected claims of fraud and negligent misrepresentation. View "Thomas v. The Regents of the University of California" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Jefferey Lurner was a member of Marbella Golf and Country Club (Marbella) where he played golf. Defendants American Golf Corporation and Root’N USA Corporation owned and operated Marbella. At some point after plaintiff joined Marbella, he was diagnosed with pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH). Given this disability, plaintiff claimed he had to drive his golf cart to wherever his ball landed on the golf course. But for safety reasons, Marbella had rules governing where golfers could drive their golf carts. Some of those restrictions applied to all members, including golfers with disabilities. Plaintiff filed suit alleging defendants failed to accommodate his disability and denied him full and equal enjoyment of the golf course. After the case proceeded to trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of defendants. The jury found defendants did not “discriminate against or deny [plaintiff] full and equal access to and enjoyment of accommodations or advantages or facilities or services at [Marbella] at any time after May 14, 2016.” The court subsequently denied plaintiff’s motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV) and motion for new trial. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court: "Assuming, without deciding, Marbella’s policies had a discriminatory effect in practice, there was substantial evidence defendants modified their policies for plaintiff. Any error regarding the testimony of defendants’ expert witness also did not result in a miscarriage of justice. We therefore affirm the judgment." View "Lurner v. American Golf Corp." on Justia Law

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Wellsfry, playing golf on OCP's course, parked his golf cart, not noticing any trees or tree roots in the area. He left his cart, took a shot, and walked down a “gentle slope” toward his cart. He felt “searing pain” and fell into his golf cart. Wellsfry knew he had stepped on something but did not see what it was and could not say if his foot caught or twisted on anything. Another golfer pointed out a tree root; it is not clear whether she saw Wellsfry step on that root. Wellsfry continued playing golf and later that day reported the incident. Wellsfry filed suit, alleging that he had fallen “by tripping on a root that was concealed in the grass in reasonably close proximity to where a tree had been removed” and “the presence of a root as a hidden obstruction created a condition that was negligently maintained and dangerous with an unreasonable risk of harm."The court of appeal affirmed the summary judgment rejection of the negligence suit. The lawsuit was barred by the primary assumption of risk doctrine; playing outdoor golf includes the inherent risk of injury caused by stepping on a tree root in an area used to access tee boxes. OCP had not increased that inherent risk and had not failed to take reasonable steps to minimize the inherent risk of injury that would not have altered the fundamental nature of the sport. View "Wellsfry v. Ocean Colony Partners" on Justia Law

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The Oakland Waterfront Ballpark District Project proposes the redevelopment of Howard Terminal, a 50-acre site within the Port of Oakland, and five contiguous acres. It includes a 35,000-seat ballpark for the city’s Major League Baseball team, construction of 3,000 residential units, 270,000 square feet of retail space, 1.5 million square feet for other commercial uses, a performance venue, and up to 400 hotel rooms. There will be parking for 8,900 vehicles; nearly 20 acres will be set aside as publicly accessible open space. Howard Terminal borders an estuary. Portions of the site are currently used for various commercial maritime activities, but most of the land is devoted to truck parking and container storage. A rail line serving passenger and freight traffic runs down the northern border of Howard Terminal.Oakland issued a draft environmental impact report (EIR) under the California Environmental Quality Act (Pub. Resources Code 21000) in 2021 and certified the final EIR a year later. A statement of overriding considerations concluded that the project’s benefits outweighed several significant environmental impacts that could not be fully mitigated. Excepting one wind mitigation measure, the trial court rejected challenges. The court of appeal affirmed. The court noted that the soil at the project site is contaminated from long years of industrial use; the ballpark and development will generate substantial new pedestrian and vehicle traffic in the neighborhood; and the site’s existing uses must be relocated but found the EIR adequate. View "East Oakland Stadium Alliance, LLC v. City of Oakland" on Justia Law

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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