Justia Entertainment & Sports Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal
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In an antitrust dispute involving the licensing of motion pictures to movie theaters for public exhibition, Flagship obtained a jury verdict against Century. The jury found true Flagship's allegations that Century had engaged in a practice known as "circuit dealing" by entering into licensing agreements with film distributors that covered licenses to play films not just at The River, a theater located two miles away from the Palme d'Or, but at multiple other Century-owned theaters as well, and using these agreements to pressure distributors into refusing to license films to the Palme d'Or.The Court of Appeal held that a Cartwright Act plaintiff asserting a non-monopoly circuit-dealing claim must prove not only that a theater-circuit owner entered into film licensing agreements covering more than one of its theaters, but that such agreements caused net harm to competition, as determined by the balancing of anti and procompetitive effects under the rule of reason. In this case, the court held that substantial evidence does not support the jury's finding of anticompetitive effects in the relevant market. Furthermore, this failure of proof warrants reversal, as circuit dealing based on multi-theater licensing agreements is not per se illegal under the Cartwright Act. The court reversed the judgment and concluded that it need not address Century's remaining arguments, as well as Flagship's separate appeal challenging the amount of attorney fees awarded. View "Flagship Theatres of Palm Desert, LLC v. Century Theatres, Inc." on Justia Law

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The lawsuit underlying this appeal involves a "spin-off" of the Fast & Furious franchise, a project ultimately released as Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw (the film), on which Moritz allegedly worked as a producer pursuant to an oral agreement with Universal. After Moritz filed suit for breach of a binding oral agreement regarding Moritz's work on the film, appellants moved to compel arbitration based on arbitration agreements in the written producer contracts regarding Moritz's work for Universal on the Fast & Furious franchise.The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's denial of appellants' motion to arbitrate, holding that the arbitration agreements from the Fast & Furious movies did not apply to the Hobbs & Shaw spin-off dispute. The court stated that not only is it not clear and unmistakable here that the parties agreed to delegate arbitrability questions concerning Hobbs & Shaw to an arbitrator, no reasonable person in their position would have understood the arbitration provisions in the Fast & Furious contracts to require arbitration of any future claim of whatever nature or type, no matter how unrelated to the agreements nor how distant in the future the claim arose. The court explained that the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) requires no enforcement of an arbitration provision with respect to disputes unrelated to the contract in which the provision appears. In this case, appellants' argument that an arbitration provision creates a perpetual obligation to arbitrate any conceivable claim that Moritz might ever have against them is plainly inconsistent with the FAA's explicit relatedness requirement. View "Moritz v. Universal City Studios LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Michael Hanna was declared to be a vexatious litigant under several subparts of the California Code of Civil Procedure section 391(b). As a result, and the trial court's determination that Hanna was not reasonably likely to succeed on the merits of this action, Hanna was ordered to furnish a $100,000 security bond. The trial court also imposed a prefiling restriction on Hanna in future litigation, requiring Hanna to seek permission from the presiding justice or presiding judge of the court if he brought a civil action as a pro se litigant. The underlying dispute arose from a 2017 complaint Hanna filed against Little League Baseball, Inc., alleging trade libel and unfair and fraudulent business practices. Hanna alleged he was the president of a youth sports organization known as Team Hemet Baseball and Softball (Team Hemet), and in that capacity, he “executed an agreement” with Little League “for the individual ‘. . . right to conduct a baseball and softball program under the name “Little League”’” for one year. In July 2017, Little League “purportedly” placed Team Hemet on a regional hold, which “prevent[ed] any operations by [Team Hemet] until satisfied.” Hanna alleged that Little League “ha[d] improperly obtained money from [Hanna], and continue[d] to improperly obtain money from the general public.” The trial court dismissed the trade libel claim on demurrer. Little League moved for an order finding Hanna to be a vexatious litigant and requiring him to furnish security, and requested the court judicially notice 14 different civil actions filed from 2009 through 2018 involving Hanna as a pro se plaintiff and a defendant. Hanna challenged the vexatious litigant determination and the determination that he was not likely to succeed on the merits of the action. Hanna further contends that the trial court lacked authority to rule on discovery motions and to impose discovery sanctions after the filing of the motion under section 391.1 to declare Hanna a vexatious litigant and to have him furnish security. The Court of Appeal affirmed the prefiling restriction placed on Hanna’s filing of future actions as a pro se litigant. In the published portion of its opinion, the Court agreed the trial court was without authority to rule on the discovery motions or to impose sanctions. "Under the plain language of section 391.6, all further proceedings in the action should have been stayed once the vexatious litigant motion under section 391.1 was filed." The Court therefore reversed the orders imposing discovery sanctions. Judgment was affirmed in all other respects. View "Hanna v. Little League Baseball" on Justia Law

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Since 1986, the GSW NBA basketball team has played their home games at the Authority's Oakland arena. A 1996 License Agreement gave GSW certain obligations to pay the debt incurred in renovating the arena if GSW “terminates” the agreement. In 2012, GSW announced its intention to construct a new arena in San Francisco. GSW did not exercise the renewal option in the Agreement, and, on June 30, 2017, its initial term expired. GSW initiated arbitration proceedings, seeking a declaration that it was no longer obliged to make debt payments if it allowed the License Agreement to expire rather than terminating it.The arbitrator ruled in favor of the Authority and against GSW, awarding the Authority attorney fees. The court of appeal affirmed. Based on extrinsic evidence, the arbitrator found the parties intended to adhere to the terms of a pre-agreement Memorandum of Understanding, which required the team to continue making debt payments after the initial term. The 1996 License Agreement is reasonably susceptible to the parties’ competing interpretations, so parol evidence was admissible to prove what the parties intended. Even assuming that the arbitrator addressed a question of law when she interpreted the Agreement, the parties intended to include a termination of the agreement upon GSW’s failure to exercise the first two options to renew. View "Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority v. Golden State Warriors, LLC" on Justia Law

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While going down Festival’s waterslide, Sharufa inadvertently slipped from a seated position on an inner tube onto his stomach. When he entered the pool below, his feet hit the bottom with enough force to fracture his hip and pelvis. Sharufa sued for negligence, product liability (including breach of express and implied warranties), and negligent misrepresentation. Sharufa’s opposition to a summary judgment motion included a mechanical engineer's opinion that going down the slide on one’s stomach could lead to injury because it would cause a person to enter the water with more velocity than sliding on one’s back. The court found that the engineer did not qualify as an expert on the relevant subject matter and granted Festival summary adjudication on all but the negligent misrepresentation claim. Sharufa dismissed that claim without prejudice to allow an appeal. The court of appeal affirmed as to Sharufa’s negligence cause of action, Festival owes a heightened duty of care as a common carrier; but there was no evidence of breach. The court reversed as to Sharufa’s products liability causes of action; the record is insufficient to show the park provided primarily a service rather than use of a product. The purpose of riding a waterslide is “entertainment and amusement,” but where a product is intended for entertainment, to allow a supplier to be characterized as an “amusement service” provider would risk weakening product liability protections for consumers. View "Sharufa v. Festival Fun Parks, LLC" on Justia Law

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After a seaman's hands were injured on a commercial fishing vessel out on the Gulf of Mexico and he ultimately loss some of his fingers due to infection, he filed suit against the vessel's owner and the production company that was filming a reality TV show on the vessel.The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's grant of summary judgment to the production company, holding that the production company was not liable under the Jones Act because plaintiff was not an "employee" or a "borrowed servant" to the production company. The court declined to construe the borrowed servant doctrine in the maritime context to impose a duty upon passengers and observers on a vessel to undertake acts inconsistent with the orders of the vessel's captain. The court also held that the production company was not liable under maritime tort law because there were not genuine issues of material fact as to whether the production company had a "special relationship" with plaintiff, the production company's rescue attempts were grossly negligent, and the production company acted negligently in taking charge of a "helpless" person. View "McHenry v. Asylum Entertainment Delaware, LLC" on Justia Law

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The provision of adequate protective netting in a perceived zone of danger behind home plate (or for field-level seating along the first- and third-base lines between home plate and the dugouts) increases safety and minimizes the risk of injury to spectators without altering the nature of baseball as it is played today in professional and college ballparks.The Court of Appeal reversed the trial court's judgment entered in favor of US Baseball after sustaining without leave to amend US Baseball's demurrer to the first amended complaint of a 12 year-old who was seriously injured by a line drive foul ball while watching a baseball game sponsored by US Baseball. The court held that plaintiff's proposed second amended complaint stated causes of action for negligence and premises liability against US Baseball. In this case, plaintiff adequately alleged duty and breach, and any issue of "open and obvious danger" could not be resolved on demurrer. Accordingly, the court remanded with directions to the trial court to vacate its order sustaining US Baseball's demurrer without leave to amend and to enter a new order sustaining the demurrer and granting plaintiff leave to file a second amended complaint. View "Summer J. v. United States Baseball Federation" on Justia Law

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Sony, the Estate of Michael J. Jackson, and MJJ Productions appealed from the superior court's order partially denying their motion to strike under the anti-SLAPP statute. Plaintiff alleged that defendants marketed a posthumous Michael Jackson album in violation of the Unfair Competition Law (UCL) and the Consumers Legal Remedies Act (CLRA). Plaintiff also brought a fraud claim against the Cascio Defendants, alleging that they knowingly misrepresented to defendants that Jackson was the lead singer on the three tracks at issue.Upon reconsideration in light of FilmOn.com Inc. v. Double Verify Inc. (2019) 7 Cal.5th 133, the Court of Appeal held that its prior opinion was correct. In the prior opinion, the court held that plaintiff's claims against defendants arose from conduct furthering defendants' right of free speech in connection with a public issue, and that plaintiff did not show a probability that her claims under the UCL and the CLRA would succeed because the claims concern noncommercial speech that is not actionable under those statutes.The court largely adopted the prior opinion, except that it revised the discussion of the first step of the anti-SLAPP procedure to take into account the FilmOn decision and its application to the circumstances of this case. The court held that defendants' challenged statements were sufficiently connected to an issue of public interest to warrant anti-SLAPP protection. In this case, the representations that plaintiff challenged did not simply promote sale of the album, but also stated a position on a disputed issue of public interest. View "Serova v. Sony Music Entertainment" on Justia Law

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Defendant California Community College Athletic Association (Athletic Association) administered intercollegiate athletics for the California community college system. The parties agreed that, as a condition of participating in the intercollegiate football league, plaintiff Bakersfield College (the College) agreed to be bound by the Athletic Association’s bylaws and constitution, including a provision requiring the College to resolve any sanctions and penalty disputes by binding arbitration. Instead of proceeding through binding arbitration to challenge the sanctions and penalty decisions issued by the Athletic Association and codefendant the Southern California Football Association (the Football Association) against the College, the College and coplaintiffs Jeffrey Chudy and the Kern Community College District elected to file civil litigation. Plaintiffs argued they were excused from pursuing binding arbitration because the arbitration provision was unconscionable. The trial court said the “issue [wa]s close,” but ultimately, after severing the one-sided attorney fees subsections, found the arbitration provision was not unconscionable. The trial court, therefore, found plaintiffs’ litigation was barred by the failure to exhaust their administrative remedies. The Court of Appeal agreed with the trial court that this was a close case but concluded the arbitration provision was unconscionable. Accordingly, it reversed. View "Bakersfield College v. Cal. Community College Athletic Assn." on Justia Law

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JRE filed suit against defendants in an action stemming from a dispute concerning a television production based on the life of the Mexican-American celebrity Jenni Rivera. JRE filed suit against Rivera's former manager, the program's producers, and the program's broadcaster. JRE alleged that the manager breached a nondisclosure agreement by disclosing information to the producers and the broadcaster.The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's order denying the producers' special motion to strike under Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16, holding that JRE satisfied its burden to demonstrate a prima facie case, with reasonable inferences from admissible evidence, that the producers had knowledge of the nondisclosure agreement before taking actions substantially certain to induce the manager to breach the agreement. However, the court held that the First Amendment protected the broadcaster's use and broadcast of the information in the series, and the court reversed the trial court's order denying the broadcaster's special motion to strike. In this case, although First Amendment protection for newsgathering or broadcasting does not extend to defendants who commit a crime or an independent tort in gathering the information, it was undisputed that the broadcaster did not know of the nondisclosure agreement at the time it contracted with the producers to broadcast the series, and JRE did not show that the broadcaster engaged in sufficiently wrongful or unlawful conduct after it learned of the nondisclosure agreement to preclude First Amendment protection. View "Jenni Rivera Enterprises, LLC v. Latin World Entertainment Holdings, Inc." on Justia Law