Justia Contracts Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Entertainment & Sports Law
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The case involves Zion Williamson, a former Duke University basketball player, and Prime Sports Marketing, LLC, and its president, Gina Ford. Williamson signed a contract with Prime Sports for marketing representation after his last game at Duke but before being drafted into the NBA. However, Williamson terminated the contract shortly after and signed with a competitor agency, Creative Artists Agency (CAA). Prime Sports argued that Williamson was not a "student-athlete" when he signed the contract, and therefore, he could not benefit from the protections of the North Carolina Uniform Athlete Agents Act, which governs contracts between student-athletes and their agents.The United States District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina rejected Prime Sports' argument and granted summary judgment to Williamson on Prime's contract and tort claims. The court ruled that Williamson was a "student-athlete" when he signed the contract with Prime Sports, and Prime's failure to comply with the Act's requirements voided the contract.The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision. The appellate court agreed that Williamson was a "student-athlete" when he signed the contract and that Prime's failure to comply with the Act's requirements voided the contract. The court also affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment on Prime's contract and tort claims. View "Williamson v. Prime Sports Marketing, LLC" on Justia Law

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Marvin Jackson attended a World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) event and alleges that a pyrotechnics blast caused him to lose most of his hearing in his left ear. The tickets were purchased as a surprise gift by his nephew, Ashton Mott, on SeatGeek.com. All ticket purchases required agreement to various terms and conditions, including an arbitration agreement, and stated that entry to the event would constitute acceptance of these terms. Jackson sued WWE in Texas state court for negligence, but WWE moved the case to federal court and requested arbitration per the ticket agreement. The district court granted WWE’s motion, stating that Mott acted as Jackson's agent and that Jackson was therefore bound by the terms of the ticket, including the arbitration agreement.Jackson appealed the decision, arguing that Mott did not have the authority to act on his behalf and therefore the arbitration agreement should not be enforceable against him. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit disagreed with Jackson's argument. The court held that although Mott purchased the tickets without Jackson's knowledge or control, he acted as Jackson’s agent when he presented the ticket on Jackson's behalf for admittance to the event. The ticket's terms and conditions were clear that use of the ticket would constitute acceptance of the arbitration agreement. Therefore, the court affirmed the district court's decision to compel arbitration, as the arbitration agreement is enforceable against Jackson. View "Jackson v. World Wrestling" on Justia Law

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In California, VFLA Eventco, LLC (VFLA), a music festival organizer, sued Starry US Touring, Inc., Kali Uchis Touring, Inc., Big Grrrl Big Touring, Inc., and William Morris Endeavor Entertainment, LLC (WME) over the return of deposits paid to secure the performances of Ellie Goulding, Kali Uchis, and Lizzo at VFLA’s music festival scheduled for June 2020. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and government restrictions, VFLA cancelled the festival and demanded the return of the deposits from WME, who negotiated the performance contracts and held the deposits as the artists’ agent. VFLA claimed its right to the deposits under the force majeure provision in the parties’ performance contracts. The artists refused VFLA’s demand, claiming VFLA bore the risk of a cancellation due to the pandemic. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the artists and WME.The Court of Appeal of the State of California Second Appellate District affirmed the judgment, holding that the trial court properly granted summary judgment in favor of the artists and WME. The court interpreted the force majeure provision as not reasonably susceptible to VFLA’s interpretation, and favoring the artists. The court also held that the artists’ interpretation did not work an invalid forfeiture or make the performance contracts unlawful. View "VFLA Eventco, LLC v. William Morris Endeavor Entertainment, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Ohio Valley Conference ("the OVC") appealed a judgment dismissing its official-capacity and individual-capacity claims against Randall Jones, the Chair of the Board of Trustees of Jacksonville State University ("JSU"), and Don C. Killingsworth, Jr., the President of Jacksonville State University. The OVC was a men's and women's collegiate athletic conference that began in 1948. The OVC Constitution contained two relevant provisions concerning resignation of membership from the conference. In addition to alleging that JSU had failed to pay the conference-resignation fee described in Article 4.5.3 of the OVC Constitution, the OVC also asserted that JSU owed the conference money for tickets to certain conference championship basketball tournament tickets. JSU, Jones, and Killingsworth filed a joint motion to dismiss the OVC's complaint. With respect to the OVC's claims against JSU, defendants argued that the Alabama State Board of Adjustment ("the BOA") had "exclusive jurisdiction" over those claims. With respect to any claims the OVC asserted against Jones and Killingsworth in their official capacities, defendants argued the claims were barred by State immunity under § 14 of the Alabama Constitution. With respect to any claims the OVC asserted against Jones and Killingsworth in their individual capacities, defendants argued the OVC had failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted, and they maintained that the claims were barred by the doctrine of State-agent immunity. The Alabama Supreme Court concluded the OVC's claims against Jones and Killingsworth in their official capacities seeking payment for the liquidated amount of the conference-resignation fee and for the value of the tickets JSU received for the OVC's 2021 conference championship basketball tournament did not constitute claims against the State, and, therefore, they were not barred by State immunity. Accordingly, the circuit court erred in dismissing the OVC's official-capacity claims against Jones and Killingsworth. However, the Court found the OVC failed to state individual-capacity claims against Jones and Killingsworth for which relief could be granted because Jones and Killingsworth lacked any duty apart from their official positions to make the payments the OVC sought to recover and because the OVC's complaint did not supply the factual allegations necessary to support those individual-capacity claims. View "Ohio Valley Conference v. Jones, et al." on Justia Law

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Bernstein and France are certified agents, registered with the NFL Players Association to represent NFL players in contract negotiations. Bernstein also owns Clarity, which represents professional athletes in matters such as marketing and endorsement contracts. Golladay signed a standard representation agreement with Bernstein in 2016, before Golladay’s rookie season with the Detroit Lions, and signed a separate agreement with Clarity for representation in endorsement and marketing deals. In January 2019, Golladay terminated both agreements. three days after participating in an autograph-signing event that Bernstein had played no role in arranging. Golladay immediately signed with France.Bernstein believed France was behind the signing event and filed a grievance against France pursuant to the NFLPA dispute resolution provisions. The matter went to arbitration. In pre-hearing discovery, France denied possessing any documents pertaining to the event and denied any involvement in the event. France’s lies were not uncovered until after the arbitration was decided in his favor.The Third Circuit reversed the district court’s confirmation of the arbitration award because France’s fraud procured it. The Federal Arbitration Act, 9 U.S.C. 10, permits an award to be vacated under narrow circumstances, including “where an award was procured by corruption, fraud, or undue means.” France’s fraud was not discoverable through reasonable diligence and was material to the case. View "France v. Bernstein" on Justia Law

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The parties' dispute concerns the definition of a key contract work: "photoplays." The studio argues that the word includes television episodes of Columbo, a long-running television show. The creators argue that the word has many meanings and is ambiguous.The Court of Appeal affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding that the trial court properly interpreted the word "photoplays" as including television episodes, and the trial court properly granted a new trial where the jury verdict relied on two legal errors. The court also concluded that the trial court correctly denied Universal’s motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict. However, the court reversed summary adjudication of the fraud claim because disputed fact questions exist as to the statute of limitations issue. Finally, the trial court properly vacated its rescission of the 1988 amendment. View "Foxcroft Productions, Inc. v. Universal City Studios LLC" on Justia 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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In March 2018, following sexual misconduct allegations against TWC’s co-founder Harvey Weinstein, TWC sought bankruptcy protection. TWC and Spyglass signed the Asset Purchase Agreement (APA). The sale closed in July 2018. Spyglass paid $287 million. Spyglass agreed to assume all liabilities associated with the Purchased Assets, including some “Contracts.” The APA identifies “Assumed Contracts,” as those Contracts that Spyglass would designate in writing, by November 2018.In May 2018, TWC filed an Assumed Contracts Schedule, with a disclaimer that the inclusion of a contract did not constitute an admission that such contract is executory or unexpired. A June 2018 Contract Notice, listed eight Investment Agreements as “non-executory contracts that are being removed from the Assumed Contracts Schedule.” The Investment Agreements, between TWC and Investors, had provided funding for TWC films in exchange for shares of future profits. Spyglass’s November 2018 Contract Notice listed nine Investment Agreements as “Excluded Contracts,”In January 2019, the Investors requested payments from Spyglass--their asserted share of a film’s profits. The Bankruptcy Court rejected the Investors’ claim that Spyglass bought all the Investment Agreements under the APA. The district court and Third Circuit affirmed. The Investment Agreements are not “Purchased Assets” and the associated obligations are not “Assumed Liabilities.” The Investment Agreements are not executory contracts under the Bankruptcy Code. View "The Weinstein Co. Holdings, LLC v. Y Movie, LLC" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit alleging that defendants unlawfully used photographs of them to advertise strip clubs owned by defendants in violation of New York Civil Rights Law sections 50 and 51. The district court granted summary judgment for defendants, holding that plaintiffs signed full releases of their rights to the photographs.The Second Circuit concluded that the terms of Plaintiff Shake and Hinton's release agreements are disputed material facts, and defendants concede that neither they nor the third-party contractors that created and published the advertisements secured legal rights to use any of the photographs at issue. The court held that the district court erred in granting summary judgment to defendants and in denying summary judgment to plaintiffs on liability. Therefore, the court vacated in part and remanded for further proceedings.The court affirmed in part and held that the district court correctly concluded that plaintiffs had not accepted the offer of judgment because the offer's settlement amount term was ambiguous, the parties disagreed over how to interpret the term, and there was accordingly no meeting of the minds. Finally, the court held that the district court correctly dismissed the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1125(a), New York General Business Law Section 349, and libel claims. View "Electra v. 59 Murray Enterprises, Inc." on Justia Law

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The lawsuit underlying this appeal involves a "spin-off" of the Fast & Furious franchise, a project ultimately released as Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw (the film), on which Moritz allegedly worked as a producer pursuant to an oral agreement with Universal. After Moritz filed suit for breach of a binding oral agreement regarding Moritz's work on the film, appellants moved to compel arbitration based on arbitration agreements in the written producer contracts regarding Moritz's work for Universal on the Fast & Furious franchise.The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's denial of appellants' motion to arbitrate, holding that the arbitration agreements from the Fast & Furious movies did not apply to the Hobbs & Shaw spin-off dispute. The court stated that not only is it not clear and unmistakable here that the parties agreed to delegate arbitrability questions concerning Hobbs & Shaw to an arbitrator, no reasonable person in their position would have understood the arbitration provisions in the Fast & Furious contracts to require arbitration of any future claim of whatever nature or type, no matter how unrelated to the agreements nor how distant in the future the claim arose. The court explained that the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) requires no enforcement of an arbitration provision with respect to disputes unrelated to the contract in which the provision appears. In this case, appellants' argument that an arbitration provision creates a perpetual obligation to arbitrate any conceivable claim that Moritz might ever have against them is plainly inconsistent with the FAA's explicit relatedness requirement. View "Moritz v. Universal City Studios LLC" on Justia Law