Justia Entertainment & Sports Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
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Current and former minor league baseball players brought claims under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the wage-and-hour laws of California, Arizona, and Florida against MLB defendants, alleging that defendants did not pay the players at all during spring training, extended spring training, or the instructional leagues. On appeal, the players challenged the district court's denial of class certification for the Arizona, Florida, and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(b)(2) classes, and defendants petitioned to appeal the certification of the California class. The Ninth Circuit held that the district court did not err in holding, under Sullivan v. Oracle Corp., that California law should apply to the 23(b)(3) California class. However, the district court erred in determining that choice-of-law considerations defeated predominance and adequacy for the proposed Arizona and Florida Rule 23(b)(3) classes. In this case, the district court fundamentally misunderstood the proper application of California's choice-of-law principles—which, when correctly applied, indicate that Arizona law should govern the Arizona class, and Florida law the Florida class. The panel also held that the district court erred in refusing to certify a Rule 23(b)(2) class for unpaid work at defendants' training facilities in Arizona and Florida on the sole basis that choice-of-law issues undermined "cohesiveness" and therefore made injunctive and declaratory relief inappropriate. Furthermore, the district court erred in imposing a "cohesiveness" requirement for the proposed Rule 23(b)(2) class. The panel held that the predominance requirement was met as to the Arizona and Florida classes, covering alleged minimum wage violations based on the lack of any pay for time spent participating in spring training, extended spring training, and instructional leagues. In regard to the California class -- covering overtime and minimum wage claims relating to work performed during the championship season -- the panel also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that defendant's uniform pay policy, the team schedules, and representative evidence established predominance. The panel rejected defendants' contention that the district court was required to rigorously analyze the Main Survey. The panel affirmed the district court's certification of the FLSA collective action. Applying Campbell v. City of L.A., which postdated the district court's ruling, the panel held that the district court's use of the ad hoc approach was harmless error. The panel also affirmed the district court's certification of the FLSA collective as to plaintiffs' overtime claims. Accordingly, the panel affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Senne v. Kansas City Royals Baseball" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of an antitrust action brought by a putative class of residential and commercial subscribers to DirecTV's NFL Sunday Ticket. NFL Sunday Ticket is a bundled package of all NFL games available exclusively to subscribers of DirecTV's satellite television service. Plaintiffs claimed that DirecTV's arrangement harms NFL fans because it eliminates competition in the market for live telecasts of NFL games. The panel held that, at this preliminary stage, plaintiffs have stated a cause of action for a violation of Sections 1 and 2 of the Sherman Act that survives a motion to dismiss. In this case, the complaint adequately alleged that DirecTV conspired with the NFL and the NFL Teams to limit the production of telecasts to one per game, and that plaintiffs suffered antitrust injury due to this conspiracy to limit output. The complaint also alleged that defendants conspired to monopolize the market for professional football telecasts and have monopolized it. View "Ninth Inning, Inc. v. DirecTV" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of an action brought by plaintiff, a Division 1 college football player, alleging that he was an employee of the NCAA and the PAC-12 Conference within the meaning of the Fair Labor Standards Act and California labor law. The panel held that the district court properly concluded that Division I FBS Football Players are not employees of the NCAA or PAC-12 as a matter of federal law. In this case, the economic reality of the relationship between the NCAA/PAC-12 and student-athletes does not reflect an employment relationship. The panel held that, within the analytical framework established by the Supreme Court, the NCAA and PAC-12 are regulatory bodies, not employers of student-athletes under the FLSA. The panel also held that the district court correctly dismissed plaintiff's California law claims for failure to state a claim. Under California law, student-athletes are generally deemed not to be employees of their schools. Furthermore, there was no authority that supported an inference that, even though the student-athletes are not considered to be employees of their schools under California law, the NCAA and PAC-12 can nevertheless be held to be "joint employers" with the students' schools. View "Dawson v. National Collegiate Athletic Association" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff alleged that her minor daughter, H.C., was returned to play as a goalie in a youth water polo league tournament after being hit in the face by the ball and while manifesting concussion symptoms, received additional hits to the head, and suffered severely debilitating post-concussion syndrome. She filed a putative class action against USA Water Polo, alleging negligence, breach of voluntary undertaking, and gross negligence. The Ninth Circuit reversed the dismissal of the action. With respect to the negligence claim, the court cited California’s “primary assumption of risk” doctrine, providing that an entity does not owe a duty of care where “conditions or conduct that otherwise might be viewed as dangerous . . . are an integral part of the sport itself” and concluded that secondary head injuries are not “inherent” to water polo, so Polo owed H.C. a duty of care. The court rejected an argument that it fulfilled that duty with the existence of its “Rules Governing Coaches’ Conduct,” applicable to all of its teams. Concerning the voluntary undertaking claim, the court held that Polo increased the risk of secondary concussions to players who improperly returned to pay, a risk that could be eliminated through the implementation of protocols already used by the national team. Concerning a gross negligence claim, the plaintiff adequately alleged that Polo repeatedly ignored the known risk of secondary injuries, and repeatedly ignored requests to implement concussion-management and return-to-play protocols. View "Mayall v. USA Water Polo, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit vacated the district court's judgment for Led Zeppelin in a copyright infringement suit alleging that Led Zeppelin copied "Stairway to Heaven" from the song "Taurus," written by Spirit band member Randy Wolfe. The panel held that several of the district court's jury instructions were erroneous and prejudicial. Therefore, the panel remanded for a new trial. The panel also held that the scope of copyright protection for an unpublished work under the Copyright Act of 1909 is defined by the deposit copy, and the sound recordings of "Taurus" as performed by Spirit could not be used to prove substantial similarity. The panel also held that the district court abused its discretion by not allowing recordings of "Taurus" to be played for the purpose of demonstrating access. Finally, the district court was well within its discretion when it chose to exclude expert testimony on the basis of a conflict of interest. The panel vacated and remanded the district court's denial of defendants' motions for attorneys' fees and costs. View "Skidmore v. Led Zeppelin" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment for Paramount in an action under section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act. AFM filed suit alleging breach of Article 3 of the Basic Theatrical Motion Picture Agreement, a collective bargaining agreement, in connection with the motion picture, Same Kind of Different As Me, which was scored in Slovakia. The panel held that the district court misinterpreted Article 3 to apply only if a signatory producer employs the cast and crew shooting the picture; Article 3 functions as a work preservation provision that dictates when a signatory has to hire those musicians; and Article 3 applied when a signatory studio produces a motion picture and has authority over the hiring and employment of scoring musicians. The panel held that there was a disputed question of fact as to whether Paramount produced the movie and had sufficient authority over the hiring of scoring musicians such that Article 3 applied. Finally, the panel rejected Paramount's affirmative defense that Article 3 violated the National Labor Relations Act's "hot cargo" prohibition and reversed two of the district court's evidentiary rulings. View "American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada v. Paramount Pictures Corp." on Justia Law

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State-law claims brought against the NFL by former professional football players were not preempted by section 301 of the Labor Management Relations Act (LMRA). In this case, a putative class of retired NFL players alleged that the NFL distributed controlled substances and prescription drugs to its players in violation of both state and federal laws, and that the manner in which these drugs were administered left the players with permanent injuries and chronic medical conditions. The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of the action, holding that the players' claims, as pled, neither arose from their collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) nor required their interpretation. View "Dent v. National Football League" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment to CBS in an action alleging violation of state law copyrights owned by ABS in sound recordings originally fixed before 1972. The panel held that the district court erred in finding that there was no genuine issue of material fact about the copyright eligibility of remastered sound recordings distributed by CBS and improperly concluded that ABS's state copyright interest in pre-1972 sound recordings embodied in the remastered sound recordings was preempted; the district court abused its discretion by excluding evidence of ABS's expert and reports that evidenced CBS's performance of ABS's sound recordings in California, and granting partial summary judgment of no infringement with respect to the samples contained in those reports; and the district court's strict application of its local rules with respect to the timeliness of ABS's motion for class action certification was inconsistent with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and thus an abuse of discretion. The panel reversed the striking of class certification and remanded for further proceedings. View "ABS Entertainment, Inc. v. CBS Corp." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of an action alleging that USATF and the Olympics Committee engaged in an anticompetitive conspiracy in violation of antitrust law when it imposed advertising restrictions during the Olympic Trials for track and field athletes. The panel held that the Olympics Committee and USATF were entitled to implied antitrust immunity on the basis that their advertising restrictions were integral to performance of their duties under the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act. The panel noted that an injunction preventing enforcement of the advertisement regulation would open the floodgates to potential advertisers, some of which might enhance the Olympic brand and some of which might devalue the Olympic brand. View "Gold Medal LLC v. USA Track & Field" on Justia Law

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Professional golf caddies filed suit against the PGA Tour after it required them to wear bibs containing advertisements at professional golfing events. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of all claims with prejudice, holding that the caddies consented to wearing the bibs and that they did not do so under economic duress. Therefore, the caddies failed to state claims for breach of contract and quasi-contract relief, California state law publicity claims, a Lanham Act false endorsement claim, or a plausible economic duress claim. The panel also held that the caddies failed to allege plausibly that the Tour secured their consent through economic duress, and thus the district court properly dismissed the antitrust claims for failure to state a relevant market and the California unfair competition claims for failure to plead that any of the Tour's conduct was unlawful, unfair, or fraudulent. The panel remanded to allow the district court to reconsider whether to grant the caddies leave to amend their federal antitrust and California unfair competition claims. View "Hicks v. PGA Tour, Inc." on Justia Law