The California Court of Appeal today issued an opinion upholding a trial court’s finding that BGR clients Kim Kardashian and Kanye West have a probability of succeeding on their claims against YouTube co-founder Chad Hurley. In the suit, filed by BGR in October 2013, Kardashian and West alleged that Hurley breached a contract and engaged in fraud by posting on his website an unauthorized video of West’s marriage proposal to Kardashian. In response, Hurley filed an “anti-SLAPP motion” seeking early dismissal of the case. The trial court denied Hurley’s motion. In affirming the trial court’s decision, the Court of Appeal wrote “Respondents made a prima facie showing of fraud by submitting evidence that Hurley signed the release, they allowed him to remain at the party and appear in Keeping Up with the Kardashians, he published the video and publicized it very soon after the event, and they were harmed as a result.” BGR lawyers Eric M. George, Russell F. Wolpert, and Elena Nutenko represented Kardashian and West on appeal.
The National Law Journal today released its annual list of the top 100 verdicts in the country over the prior year. Browne George Ross partner Peter W. Ross was the lone lead trial counsel with two verdicts on the list. In the first, OrthoTec LLC v. Surgiview S.A.S., Ross and BGR partner Benjamin Scheibe secured for BGR client OrthoTec a verdict of $48 million in a fraudulent conveyance action. The OrthoTec verdict ranked #43 in the country and #10 in California. In the second, Neurovision Medical Products, Inc. v. NuVasive, Inc., Ross and BGR partner Keith J. Wesley obtained a $30 million verdict for their client Neurovision in a trademark infringement case. The Neurovision verdict ranked #69 nationally and #13 in California. These are the latest in a string of BGR trial victories, with Ross alone winning seven multi-million dollar verdicts in the last seven years.
For over three years, Browne George Ross has been fighting, on behalf of artists, to force auction houses Sotheby’s, Christie’s, and eBay to comply with the California Resale Royalty Act, which requires that artists be paid a five percent royalty when their work is resold in California or by a California resident. That fight is now headed to a full “en banc” panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
After BGR filed the case against the auction houses in federal court in 2011, a district judge held that the Act violated the dormant Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution. BGR appealed to the Ninth Circuit. A three-judge panel of that court heard oral argument earlier this year.
Described by the Daily Journal as “a rare move,” the Ninth Circuit today ordered that the case be heard en banc now rather than after a decision by the three-judge panel. In the Daily Journal article about the order, BGR partner Eric George defended the constitutionality of the Act, saying “[t]he auction houses are attempting to extend the dormant Commerce Clause to a place it has never gone” and explaining that “California’s law covers only in-state transactions, or art sold by California residents through auction houses that have a substantial California presence.” Also quoted in the article as agreeing that the Act is constitutional were constitutional law scholars Erwin Chemerinsky and Jesse Choper.
The en banc oral argument is scheduled for the week of December 15, 2014 in Pasadena.
The Daily Journal, California’s leading legal daily, today named Browne George Ross to its inaugural list of the top boutique law firms in the state. According to the paper, its goal “was to honor firms that truly embody the meaning: do one thing and do it exceptionally well.” For Browne George Ross, that one thing is litigation. In fact, BGR was one of only nine litigation boutiques on the list. Describing the firm as “a potent modern iteration of the firm Allan Browne started in 1985,” the Daily Journal feature includes quotes from BGR partners Eric George and Peter Ross and describes several of the firm’s most recent seven and eight-figure verdicts.
In the Spring of 2013, Jennifer Allen took to the internet with false accusations against tech investor and blogger Michael Arrington. Despite their falsity, the accusations were extensively republished. BGR partner Eric George filed a defamation suit on behalf of Mr. Arrington against Ms. Allen in federal court in Washington state. Following Ms. Allen’s deposition in the suit, Ms. Allen settled the case, agreeing to retract her accusations and to apologize to Mr. Arrington. The settlement was recently documented in an article on The New York Times website, in which Mr. George offered the following: “This is a complete vindication for Michael. He dealt with the ugliest of accusations in a principled way and, as soon as he received the retraction he had sought from the beginning, he kept his word and dismissed the lawsuit.” Assisting Mr. George in the litigation were BGR attorneys Russell Wolpert and Lauren Woodland.
Weichert Realtors and Alain Pinel Realtors Sued for Fraud in Bogus $34 Million Offer for California Mansion
San Francisco, California — Andrew August of Browne George Ross, attorney for 425 Belvedere Associates, LLC, filed suit last Friday in Marin County seeking to recover damages in excess of $12 million from real estate firms Weichert Realtors and Alain Pinel Realtors and their respective agents, Kim Farina and Stephanie Lamarre. The suit claims that they “fraudulently induced Plaintiff to chase a $34 million purchase /sales transaction with their client, who the brokers knew or should have known was either totally fictitious or a fraud of epic proportions.”
The suit goes on to say that “over the course of several months, the broker Defendants misled the Plaintiff and its broker about the Defendants’ client, the existence of the purchase funds and Defendants’ client ability to perform under the purchase/sale agreement. Ms. Farina would not disclose her client’s name (the offer was made through a trust), “but she did say he was a 50+/- year old man who came to the United States as a teenager and was a U.S. citizen. According to Ms. Farina, he had inherited hundreds of millions of dollars from a relative who was involved in a coup in Africa.”
In a twist right out of a spy novel, “Ms. Farina also alluded to a national security concern about her client’s identity.” The suit continues, “the brokers repeatedly used references to the CIA (and its newly named Director John Brennan), the FBI, Congress, national security, a Federal District Court Judge and other ‘Tom Clancy-esque’ words and phrases to both hide the identity and build the credibility of their purported buyer and explain his difficulties in delivering the $34 million purchase price as required.”
The extensive backgrounds of the individual real estate agents added much credibility to their stories. Kim Farina is a Regional Vice President and 20-year veteran of Weichert managing 8 offices in the Washington DC area. Stephanie Lamarre is a high-producing agent for Alain Pinel Realtors in Marin County, California. She has degrees from Princeton University and Stanford Law School.
According to attorney Andrew August, “There never was a real buyer and there never were any funds as represented. The most telling thing about this case is that despite repeated requests to the Realtors and their lawyers to provide documentation that would validate their client, his bank accounts, and the bases for the brokers’ supposed personal knowledge—even with the promise that no lawsuit would be filed if they cooperated—no documents and no names were ever provided.”
Browne George Ross Obtains $30 Million for Nerve Surveillance Device Manufacturer In Dispute Against NuVasive, Inc.
LOS ANGELES – Litigation firm Browne George Ross LLP obtains a $30 million federal jury verdict in a trademark infringement case brought by Neurovision Medical Products against NuVasive. Neurovision Medical is represented by Peter W. Ross and Keith J. Wesley of Browne George Ross LLP.
In the lawsuit, Neurovision Medical alleged that, years ago when NuVasive was a startup, it deliberately appropriated for itself the goodwill associated with Neurovision Medical’s established trademark. Following a five-day trial, the jury decided in favor of Neurovision Medical on all claims, awarding $30 million. The jury found that Neurovision Medical owns the Neurovision trademark throughout the United States, that NuVasive infringed upon that trademark willfully, and that NuVasive defrauded the United States Patent and Trademark Office by registering the trademark for itself.
This is the second eight-figure verdict Mr. Ross has obtained this year; he comments, “We are thankful for the result concluded by the jury and that our client will have ownership of their trademark.”
The plaintiff Neurovision Medical is a surgical device company based in Ventura, California. It was founded in 1985 by Dr. J. Lee Rea, a physician and electrical engineer, who is a pioneer in the field of nerve location and avoidance technology used in surgery. Currently, Neurovision Medical is known for state-of-the-art nerve surveillance technology, and continues to develop, market, and distribute such products throughout the United States and abroad.
The defendant NuVasive is a publicly traded medical device company based in San Diego, California. It describes itself on its website as the “third largest spine company in the U.S.” with revenues in excess of $685 million in 2013.
Browne George Ross partner Eric George was quoted in two articles in today’s edition of TMZ.com. The first article describes BGR’s latest win – the denial of an anti-SLAPP motion – in the lawsuit the firm filed on behalf of Kim Kardashian and Kanye West against the co-founder of YouTube, Chad Hurley. The second article covers a lawsuit recently filed by musician John Mayer against BGR client Robert Maron. In the lawsuit, Mayer claims that Maron misled him into buying fake Rolex watches. When asked to comment on Mayer’s claims, George responded, “John Mayer, who briefly claimed expertise in Rolexes but now has apparently changed his mind, has brought a lawsuit that is legally and factually meritless. Mr. Maron refuses to pay Mr. Mayer a cent to settle his frivolous claim, and will instead defeat him in court.”
Los Angeles — Medical device manufacturer OrthoTec, LLC significantly advanced its legal battle against New York-based private equity firm Healthpoint Capital, LLC and its principals John Foster and Mortimer Berkowitz. Last week, following a month-long trial in Los Angeles, OrthoTec obtained a fraud verdict against Surgiview, S.A.S., a Healthpoint portfolio company. OrthoTec’s theory of the case was that Foster, Berkowitz, and Healthpoint had orchestrated a fraudulent transfer of assets to Surgiview to prevent OrthoTec from collecting on a debt. The jury unanimously found for OrthoTec, awarding it $48 million, plus pre-judgment interest. OrthoTec estimates that, with interest, the award will total $75 million. OrthoTec CEO Patrick Bertranou commented that he is “a great believer in the jury system. The jurors really took our case to heart, and for that we are grateful.” Bertranou asserted that OrthoTec will now look to New York, where the same issues are slated to be tried later this year against Foster, Berkowitz, and Healthpoint. OrthoTec was represented at trial by Pete Ross and Ben Scheibe of the prominent business litigation boutique Browne George Ross LLP, with offices in Los Angeles and San Francisco. Surgiview was represented by Brad Brian of Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP.
The Daily Journal today named a $65 million win by Browne George Ross to its list of the Top 10 Verdicts of 2013. In the case, BGR represents Fantasy Springs Acquisition, LLC, the holder of a note issued by the Cabazon Band of Mission Indians, and Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., the trustee under an indenture related to the note. The Band ceased debt service on the note, claiming economic hardship, and its casino commenced monthly distributions of $668,000 directly to the Band rather than through Wells Fargo. Fantasy Springs Acquisition retained BGR to sue the Band for breach of contract and to obtain an injunction requiring the casino’s distributions to the Band to be made through Wells Fargo. The Band defended on the ground that a judgment would violate federal Indian law and that the note requires unenforceable liquidated damages. BGR obtained summary adjudication of its breach of contract claim – securing the right to a judgment for more than $65 million (including principal of over $62 million and prejudgment interest). Eric M. George and Ira Bibbero are the lead BGR attorneys on the case.