Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Entertainment & Sports 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 Michael Hanna was declared to be a vexatious litigant under several subparts of the California Code of Civil Procedure section 391(b). As a result, and the trial court's determination that Hanna was not reasonably likely to succeed on the merits of this action, Hanna was ordered to furnish a $100,000 security bond. The trial court also imposed a prefiling restriction on Hanna in future litigation, requiring Hanna to seek permission from the presiding justice or presiding judge of the court if he brought a civil action as a pro se litigant. The underlying dispute arose from a 2017 complaint Hanna filed against Little League Baseball, Inc., alleging trade libel and unfair and fraudulent business practices. Hanna alleged he was the president of a youth sports organization known as Team Hemet Baseball and Softball (Team Hemet), and in that capacity, he “executed an agreement” with Little League “for the individual ‘. . . right to conduct a baseball and softball program under the name “Little League”’” for one year. In July 2017, Little League “purportedly” placed Team Hemet on a regional hold, which “prevent[ed] any operations by [Team Hemet] until satisfied.” Hanna alleged that Little League “ha[d] improperly obtained money from [Hanna], and continue[d] to improperly obtain money from the general public.” The trial court dismissed the trade libel claim on demurrer. Little League moved for an order finding Hanna to be a vexatious litigant and requiring him to furnish security, and requested the court judicially notice 14 different civil actions filed from 2009 through 2018 involving Hanna as a pro se plaintiff and a defendant. Hanna challenged the vexatious litigant determination and the determination that he was not likely to succeed on the merits of the action. Hanna further contends that the trial court lacked authority to rule on discovery motions and to impose discovery sanctions after the filing of the motion under section 391.1 to declare Hanna a vexatious litigant and to have him furnish security. The Court of Appeal affirmed the prefiling restriction placed on Hanna’s filing of future actions as a pro se litigant. In the published portion of its opinion, the Court agreed the trial court was without authority to rule on the discovery motions or to impose sanctions. "Under the plain language of section 391.6, all further proceedings in the action should have been stayed once the vexatious litigant motion under section 391.1 was filed." The Court therefore reversed the orders imposing discovery sanctions. Judgment was affirmed in all other respects. View "Hanna v. Little League Baseball" on Justia Law

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In 1960, the Everly Brothers (Don and Phil) recorded, released, and copyrighted "Cathy’s Clown" and two other songs (the Compositions), granting the copyrights to Acuff-Rose. The original copyrights listed Phil and Don as authors; both received royalties. They were both credited as authors of Cathy’s Clown in 1961 and 1975 awards. They took joint credit for authoring the song in a 1972 television interview. In a 1980 “Release and Assignment,” Phil agreed to release to Don all of his rights to the Compositions, including “every claim of every nature by him as to the compositions of said songs.” Don subsequently received all royalty payments and public credit as the author; Acuff-Rose changed its business records to reflect Don as sole author. Licenses and credits for Cathy’s Clown and a 1988 copyright renewal listed Don as the only author. Both brothers nonetheless made public statements continuing to credit Phil as a co-author. In 2011, Don sought to execute his 17 U.S.C. 304(c) right to termination to regain copyright ownership from Acuff-Rose, claiming exclusive copyright ownership. Phil exercised termination rights as to other compositions, in 2007 and 2012, but never attempted to terminate any grant related to the 1960 Compositions.After Phil’s 2014 death, his children filed notices of termination as to the 1960 Grants, seeking to regain Phil’s rights to Cathy’s Clown. In 2016, they served a notice of termination as to Phil’s 1980 Assignment to Don. The district court granted Don summary judgment, finding that the claim of Phil’s co-authorship was barred by the statute of limitations. The Sixth Circuit reversed, finding a genuine factual dispute as to whether Don expressly repudiated Phil’s co-authorship, and thus triggered the statute of limitations, no later than 2011. View "Everly v. Everly" on Justia Law

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The 1992 federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), 28 U.S.C. 3702, prohibited governmental entities from involvement in gambling concerning competitive sports. New Jersey’s 2012 Sports Wagering Act authorized sports gambling. NCAA and professional sports leagues (Appellees) filed suit. The district court entered a temporary restraining order (TRO) barring the New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association (NJTHA) from conducting sports gambling, finding that the state law violated PASPA. The court required Appellees to post a $1.7 million bond as security. On appeal, NJTHA successfully challenged the constitutionality of PASPA in the Supreme Court. On remand, NJTHA unsuccessfully sought to recover on the bond. The Third Circuit vacated and remanded. NJTHA was “wrongfully enjoined” within the meaning of Federal Rule 65(c) and no good cause existed to deny bond damages. PASPA provided the only basis for enjoining NJTHA from conducting sports gambling. The Supreme Court ultimately held that that law is unconstitutional; NJTHA had a right to conduct sports gambling all along. There was no change in the law; NJTHA enjoyed success on the merits and is entitled to recover provable damages up to the bond amount. View "National Collegiate Athletic Association v. Governor of New Jersey" on Justia Law

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Appellees Augustus Feleccia and Justin Resch were student athletes who played football at Lackawanna Junior College (Lackawanna), a nonprofit junior college. Lackawanna had customarily employed two athletic trainers to support the football program. The Athletic Director, Kim Mecca, had to fill two trainer vacancies in the summer of 2009. She received applications from Kaitlin Coyne, and Alexis Bonisese. At the time she applied and interviewed for the Lackawanna position, Coyne had not yet passed the athletic trainer certification exam, and was therefore not licensed by the Board. Bonisese was also not licensed, having failed the exam on her first attempt, and still awaiting the results of her second attempt when she applied and interviewed for the Lackawanna position. Nevertheless, Lackawanna hired both Coyne and Bonisese in August 2009 with the expectation they would serve as athletic trainers, pending receipt of their exam results, and both women signed “athletic trainer” job descriptions. After starting their employment at Lackawanna, Coyne and Bonisese both learned they did not pass the athletic trainer certification exam. Mecca retitled the positions held by Coyne and Bonisese from “athletic trainers” to “first responders.” However, neither Coyne nor Bonisese executed new job descriptions, despite never achieving the credentials included in the athletic trainer job descriptions they did sign. Appellants were also aware the qualifications of their new hires was called into question by their college professors and clinic supervisors. In 2010, appellees participated in the first day of spring contact football practice, engaging in a variation of the tackling drill known as the “Oklahoma Drill.” While participating in the drill, both Resch and Feleccia suffered injuries. Resch attempted to make a tackle and suffered a T-7 vertebral fracture. Resch was unable to get up off the ground and Coyne attended to him before he was transported to the hospital in an ambulance. Later that same day, Feleccia was injured while attempting to make his first tackle, experiencing a “stinger” in his right shoulder, i.e., experiencing numbness, tingling and a loss of mobility in his right shoulder. Bonisese attended Feleccia and cleared him to continue practice “if he was feeling better.” In this discretionary appeal arising from the dismissal of appellees’ personal injury claims on summary judgment, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court considered whether the superior court erred in: (1) finding a duty of care; and (2) holding a pre-injury waiver signed by student athletes injured while playing football was not enforceable against claims of negligence, gross negligence, and recklessness. After careful review, the Court affirmed the superior court’s order only to the extent it reversed the trial court’s entry of summary judgment on the claims of gross negligence and recklessness. The Case was remanded back to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Feleccia v. Lackawanna College, et al." on Justia Law