A Los Angeles Superior Court jury this afternoon rendered a complete defense verdict in favor of BGR client Pixior, a business that provides warehouse and distribution services to fashion companies, in a lawsuit brought by a disgruntled former customer. At the trial, the plaintiff Embassy Apparel, sought over $700,000 in damages, claiming that Pixior had violated its rights by selling its property in order to recover unpaid warehouse fees. BGR partner Pete Ross argued that Pixior had acted properly in the sale and that Embassy should have mitigated its damages by simply paying its bills. The jury agreed with Ross, finding in favor of Pixior on all counts. Ross was assisted throughout the case and at trial by BGR associate Lauren Woodland.
BGR Partner Jeff Mitchell Quoted in Fortune Article About Tiffany & Co.’s Legal Battle Against Costco
BGR partner Jeff Mitchell is representing the iconic jewelry company Tiffany & Co. in an ongoing intellectual property lawsuit against Costco. The case, pending in federal court in Manhattan, centers on Costco’s use of Tiffany’s distinctive trade name to sell its own engagement rings. A Fortune article entitled “This New Tiffany Ad Campaign Is Also a Salvo in a Legal Battle” features comments from Mitchell on why the case is so significant to his client: “This is Costco. This is not one little mom-and-pop shop on a street corner in Astoria,” Mitchell was quoted as saying. The article highlights a September 2015 court ruling finding “that Costco knowingly infringed on Tiffany’s intellectual property,” and goes on to mention an upcoming trial on damages, where Mitchell and fellow BGR attorneys Judith Cohen and Erin Burns will be representing Tiffany.
Browne George Ross ushered in 2016 by celebrating the opening of a New York City office at 5 Penn Plaza. Led by powerhouse litigator, Jeffrey Mitchell, the New York City office of BGR also includes experienced litigators Judith Cohen and Erin Burns. The three new attorneys – most recently from Dickstein Shapiro – add decades of legal knowledge and experience to BGR. The opening of BGR’s New York City office has generated substantial coverage in the legal press, including features in the National Law Journal, the Daily Journal, and Law360.
Browne George Ross attorneys have recently been called upon for commentary on a variety of legal issues in the news. The range of issues is a testimony to the breadth of BGR’s practice and knowledge base. For example:
- BGR partner Curtis Smolar’s work on behalf of San Francisco for Everyone – a pro-home sharing campaign that opposed a failed ballot measure limiting home rentals in San Francisco – was featured in an October 2015 San Francisco Business Times article. Smolar was also quoted extensively in a November 2015 Law360 article entitled “Third Circuit Google Ruling Provides Blueprint for Privacy Suits.” In the Law360 article, Smolar described California’s strong privacy laws generally and in the context of a recent federal court appellate ruling in a class action against Google.
- The Daily Journal featured two articles written by BGR associate Corbin Barthold – the first analyzing a case currently before the U.S. Supreme Court on the scope of “appropriate equitable relief” under the Employment Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), and a second commenting on a constitutional challenge to the City of San Jose’s affordable housing law.
- BGR partner Keith Wesley was quoted in a November 2015 Daily Journal article about a lawsuit filed by the manager of the hip hop group NWA against the makers of the hit film “Straight Outta Compton.” Wesley described the balance between expression that is protectable under intellectual property laws and matters that are in the public domain.
In addition to these and other contributions to legal news, BGR attorneys also continued in 2015 with the firm tradition of providing updates to the Continuing Education of the Bar treatise entitled California Business Litigation.
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.”