Justia Entertainment & Sports Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal
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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

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Mitchell sued Twin Galaxies for defamation and false light after Twin Galaxies issued a statement asserting Mitchell’s world record scores in the Donkey Kong arcade game were not achieved on original unmodified hardware as required under its rules. Twin Galaxies removed all of Mitchell’s world record scores and banned him from participating in its leaderboards. The trial court denied Twin Galaxies’ special motion to strike under the strategic lawsuits against public participation statute (anti-SLAPP motion). (Code Civ. Procedure 425.16.) The court of appeal affirmed. Mitchell showed a probability of prevailing on his claims; the trial court properly denied the anti-SLAPP motion. Mitchell made a prima facie showing of falsity by providing his own declaration and others’ declarations attesting to the equipment used and made a prima facie showing of actual malice. Twin Galaxies failed to take any steps to inquire into the truth of Mitchell’s statements even after he was provided the names of witnesses and having confirmation of the procedures under which the disputed scores were achieved. View "Mitchell v. Twin Galaxies, LLC" on Justia Law

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In 2017, a scene depicting an armed robbery of a jewelry store was filmed in New Orleans for the CBS television show, NCIS: New Orleans. No permits were obtained for the filming and police were not informed. A neighbor, thinking the robbery was real, called 911. The plaintiffs, all Louisiana residents, were arrested by responding officers and later released. They sought to recover damages in California from CBS, based upon fraudulent representations and/or omissions that were made to them in Louisiana, and that caused them harm in Louisana.The court of appeal affirmed the dismissal of the suit. Code of Civil Procedure section 361 provides that “[w]hen a cause of action has arisen in another State, . . . and by the laws thereof an action thereon cannot there be maintained against a person by reason of the lapse of time, an action thereon shall not be maintained against him in this State.” The one-year Louisiana statute of limitations expired before the filing of the action. The court rejected arguments that the causes of action arose in California because the fraud committed in Louisiana allegedly was ratified by CBS’s conduct in California. The plaintiffs cannot state a valid claim for unjust enrichment. View "LeBrun v. CBS Studios Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against a reality show's production and media companies for various causes of action after discovering she was filmed while changing clothes in a dressing area designated for models, and that her "nearly fully nude body had been exposed on national television" during the airing of the show. Defendant production and media companies filed a special motion to strike the model's complaint as a strategic lawsuit against public participation under the anti-SLAPP statute, Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16.The Court of Appeal concluded that plaintiff's claims arise from the production and broadcast of an episode of "Shahs of Sunset," which is protected activity. In this case, the court agreed with defendants' assertion that the footage at issue is relevant to the storyline of the episode and that the experience of being a model is an issue of public interest. However, the court concluded that plaintiff has shown a probability of success on her causes of action for invasion of privacy; tortious misappropriation of name or likeness; intentional infliction of emotional distress; and negligence. Accordingly, the court affirmed the trial court's order denying defendants' special motion to strike the complaint, as modified: the separate cause of action for negligent infliction of emotional distress is stricken from the complaint, as it is part and parcel of the negligence cause of action. View "Belen v. Ryan Seacrest Productions, LLC" on Justia Law

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Szarowicz and Birenbaum played on opposing recreational ice hockey teams in a no-check league. When the puck was hit laterally toward the players’ bench. Szarowicz followed the puck; Birenbaum, who was defending the goal, took several strides parallel to the side of the rink along the players’ bench. The puck ricocheted off the board. Szarowicz intended to slap toward the goal so that his offensive teammate could shoot. Birenbaum collided with him, propelling him into the air, causing him to fall to the ice. Szarowicz was briefly knocked unconscious. He left the ice with assistance and was taken to the hospital. He suffered extensive injuries, including six broken ribs, a dislocated shoulder with three fractured bones, a torn rotator cuff, a fractured sternum, a fractured scapula, and a collapsed lung.Szarowicz sued Birenbaum for negligence and intentional tort. The trial court granted Birenbaum summary judgment, concluding checking is an inherent risk of the game and the assumption of risk doctrine barred Szarowicz from recovering damages. The court of appeal reversed. Summary judgment was inappropriate; a triable issue of material fact exists as to whether Birenbaum breached a limited duty of care owed to Szarowicz not to increase the risks to him beyond those inherent in the game. Szarowicz also raised triable issues of material fact as to his intentional tort claim and his prayer for punitive damages. View "Szarowicz v. Birenbaum" on Justia Law

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This case arose from a movie-making accident. After her father was injured diving in French Polynesia, Mira Chloe Prickett sued Bonnier Corporation and World Publications, LLC (collectively Bonnier) for compensatory and punitive damages under general maritime law. The trial court granted a judgment on the pleadings against her on the grounds that neither compensatory damages for loss of her father’s society nor punitive damages were available under general maritime law. Appellant Prickett did not cite on appeal any admiralty authority that would allow a child to recover loss of society damages for a nonfatal injury to a non-seaman on the high seas, and – without legislative impetus or compelling logic for such a result – the Court of Appeal declined to do so. The trial court's judgment was affirmed. View "Prickett v. Bonnier Corp." on Justia Law