Justia Entertainment & Sports Law Opinion Summaries

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Gold Forever, a music publishing company solely owned by Holland, has agreements with various artists entitling it to half of the royalties collected for the sale and performance of those artists’ work. Holland was a Motown artist and co-wrote several famous songs. His music forms some, but not all, of Gold’s catalog. BMI and Universal license others to use Gold’s music; they collect and remit the royalties to Gold. Holland owes millions of dollars to the IRS in taxes, interest, and penalties. In 2012, the IRS served notices of levy to BMI and Universal, identifying Gold as the “alter ego/nominee transferee of" Holland and requiring the companies to remit to the IRS property and rights to property that they were obligated to pay Gold. Beginning on October 6, 2016, the companies remitted $967,140.76 to the IRS. Gold made requests for refunds to the IRS within nine months. On December 6, 2017, Gold filed a wrongful levy action for the funds remitted beginning on October 6, 2016, alleging that most, if not all, of the money belongs either to Gold or to artists other than Holland. The court dismissed the suit as untimely. The Sixth Circuit reversed. The statute of limitations for a wrongful levy action cannot begin until there has been a levy that attaches to the property at issue. Notices of levy in 2012 did not constitute levies on royalties generated after the notices were served, so the statute of limitations did not bar the wrongful levy action. View "Gold Forever Music, Inc. v. United States" on Justia Law

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In August 2011, Long was shot by a third-party assailant in the Candlestick Park parking lot after a professional football game. Long sued the San Francisco Forty-Niners, Ltd. in state court, alleging breach of contract, negligence, and liability under the rescue doctrine. In 2013, Long learned that Ltd. had converted into a Delaware LLC and filed an identical complaint against the LLC and Ltd.'s general partner, in federal court. Long voluntarily dismissed the state court action in July 2013, less than a month before trial. Subsequently, the federal court dismissed the federal case for lack of diversity jurisdiction. Long filed another state suit, against LLC, in November 2013, with the same allegations. The court dismissed the suit as time-barred, having been filed more than two years after the shooting; the court rejected an argument that the statute of limitations was equitably tolled while the federal case was pending. The court of appeal affirmed. Although LLC was on notice of Long’s claims from the beginning of the first state court action, the doctrine of equitable tolling was not intended to burden a defendant or the courts with having to repeatedly re-start litigation that was almost fully adjudicated, simply because the plaintiff had a last-minute change of mind about the forum. The factual allegations do not establish reasonable and good-faith conduct. View "Long v. Forty Niners Football Co." on Justia Law

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George Zakk filed suit against Vin Diesel, One Race Films, Inc., and Revolution Studios for breach of an oral contract, breach of an implied-in-fact contract, intentional interference with contractual relations, quantum meruit, promissory estoppel, and declaratory relief. Plaintiff alleged that he was entitled to be paid and receive an executive producer credit for a film that was a sequel to a film he had worked on and developed. The trial court sustained defendants' demurrers and dismissed the third amended complaint. With regard to oral contracts that fall within the statute of frauds category of contracts not to be performed within a year, the Court of Appeal held that the promisee's full performance of all of his or her obligations under the contract takes the contract out of the statute of frauds, and no further showing of estoppel is required. The court distinguished cases involving other categories of contracts within the statute of frauds, such as contracts to make a will or contracts not to be performed within the promisor's lifetime, because those categories of contracts historically have been treated differently than contracts not to be performed within a year. The court held that, to the extent those cases hold that avoidance of the statute of frauds requires the promisee to satisfy the elements of estoppel--showing extraordinary services by the promisee or unjust enrichment by the promisor--they do not apply to the category of contracts not to be performed within a year. In this case, the court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding that Zakk's allegation that he fully performed his obligations under the alleged oral contract at issue is enough to avoid the statute of frauds. The trial court erred in finding that Zakk's breach of contract and related claims were barred by the statute of frauds absent alleged facts showing defendants were estopped to assert the statute. Furthermore, the trial court erred by finding that the third amended complaint was a sham pleading and that the quantum meruit claim was time-barred. However, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in dismissing the promissory estoppel claim. View "Zakk v. Diesel" on Justia Law

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After plaintiff, Edward Joseph Mahoney's drummer, was terminated, plaintiff filed suit against Mahoney and others for discrimination on the basis of age, disability, and medical condition. In this appeal, defendants challenged the trial court's denial of a special motion to strike under Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16 (the anti-SLAPP motion). The Court of Appeal held that defendants met their burden to establish that Mahoney's decision to terminate plaintiff was protected conduct. The court held that Mahoney's selection of musicians to perform with him was an act in furtherance of the exercise of the right of free speech, an act in connection with an issue of public interest, and plaintiff's first cause of action arose from Mahoney's decision to terminate him. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for the trial court to determine whether plaintiff has demonstrated a probability of prevailing on the merits of his claim. View "Symmonds v. Mahoney" on Justia Law

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Five African-American women on the basketball team at California State University at San Marcos (CSUSM) sued their head coach and the Board of Trustees of the California State University, claiming the coach engaged in race-based discrimination and retaliation: derogatorily referring to them as "the group," reduced their playing time, afforded them fewer opportunities, punished them more severely and generally singled them out for harsher treatment as compared to their non-African-American teammates. The trial court granted both motions for summary judgment filed by the Board, concluding plaintiff Danielle Cooper's claims were untimely and that the remaining plaintiffs could not show a triable issue on the merits. The Court of Appeal reversed summary judgment and directed the court to enter a new order granting summary adjudication on some, but not all, of plaintiffs' claims: plaintiffs cannot sue the Board under 42 United States Code sections 1981 and 1983 because CSUSM was not a "person" subject to suit under those statutes. With regard to the remaining claims brought by the four "freshmen plaintiffs," summary adjudication was improper as to their racial discrimination claims under title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Unruh Civil Rights Act. The Board did not meet its moving burden to show the lack of a triable issue as to whether these plaintiffs suffered a materially adverse action under circumstances suggesting a racially discriminatory motive. For similar reasons, summary adjudication was improper on title VI retaliation claims brought by three of the four freshmen plaintiffs, Lynette Mackey, Kianna Williams, and Sierra Smith: each of these women complained about the coach's discriminatory treatment and indicated how they suffered adverse consequences as a result. The Court reached a different conclusion as to plaintiff Crystal Hicks, who never made a complaint and denied facing any consequences as a result of complaints made by her peers. View "Mackey v. Bd. of Trustees of the Cal. State University" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, aggrieved at their portrayal in a documentary on gun violence called Under the Gun, filed suit alleging defamation by the film's creators. The crux of plaintiffs' defamation claims was that an edited interview manufactured a false exchange that made them look ridiculous, incompetent, and ignorant about firearm ownership and sales, including the policies surrounding background checks. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the complaint, holding that the edited footage did not arise to the level of defamation under Virginia law. The court held that plaintiffs' defamation per se claims failed, and that the edited footage was not reasonably capable of suggesting that the Virginia Citizens Defense League and its members were "ignorant and incompetent on the subject to which they have dedicated their organizational mission." Finally, regardless of how certain media outlets covered the short-lived frenzy surrounding this incident, the Supreme Court of Virginia has consistently stressed that it is the province of courts to perform the gatekeeping role of distinguishing defamatory speech from mere insults. In this case, the district court properly performed its independent gatekeeping role and the district court reached the correct result on the merits. View "VA Citizens Defense League v. Couric" on Justia Law

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In a contract dispute between film producer Adam Rosenfelt and the Mississippi Development Authority ("MDA"), Rosenfelt claimed the MDA promised loan guarantees so he could make movies in Mississippi. He made one film, which was not financially successful, and the MDA refused to guarantee the loan for his next project. Rosenfelt claimed the MDA breached a contract with him, personally. The Mississippi Supreme Court concluded Rosenfelt lacked standing to file suit: the actual documents showed any agreement was between the MDA and one or more LLCs, not Rosenfelt personally. Furthermore, the Court determined no error has been shown as to the dismissal of one of those LLCs, Element Studios, LLC, for want of standing. View "Rosenfelt v. Mississippi Development Authority" on Justia Law

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The Architect of the Capitol removed high school student David Pulphus’ painting from the exhibition of the 2016 winners of the Congressional Art Competition. The painting was initially described as “a colorful landscape of symbolic characters representing social injustice, the tragic events in Ferguson, Missouri, and the lingering elements of inequality in modern American society.” It was removed after protests by police unions and a FOX news personality, based on a newspaper story that described it as “depicting police officers as pigs with guns terrorizing a black neighborhood.” After unsuccessfully asking that the House Office Building Commission overrule the removal decision, Pulphus and Missouri Congressman Clay unsuccessfully sought a preliminary injunction, alleging violations of their First Amendment rights. The D.C. Circuit dismissed an appeal as moot; the 2016 Congressional Art Competition is over and no other concrete, redressable injury is alleged that was caused by the Architect’s removal decision. View "Pulphus v. Ayers" on Justia Law

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Defendants conduct online fantasy‐sports games. Participants pay an entry fee and select a roster, subject to a budget cap that prevents every entrant from picking only the best players. Results from real sports contests determine how each squad earns points to win cash. Former college football players whose names, pictures, and statistics have been used without their permission sued, claiming that Indiana’s right-of-publicity statute, Code 32‐36‐1‐8, gives them control over the commercial use of their names and data. The district court dismissed the complaint, relying on exemptions for the use of a personality’s name, voice, signature, photograph, image, likeness, distinctive appearance, gestures, or mannerisms "in" material “that has political or newsworthy value” or “in connection with the broadcast or reporting of an event or a topic of general or public interest." The Seventh Circuit affirmed after the Supreme Court of Indiana responded to a certified question that: Indiana’ right of publicity statute contains an exception for material with newsworthy value that includes online fantasy sports operators’ use of college players’ names, pictures, and statistics for online fantasy contests. View "Daniels v. Fanduel, Inc." 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