Congratulations to Los Angeles Employment Attorney Michael Jacob
Congratulations to our associate attorney Michael Jacob, who just won a 5-day bench trial in front of Judge Kronstadt in Santa Monica. Mike handled the case from start to finish and much of his pre-trial work contributed to the trial win.
Facts: Our client is a 79 year old actress on a popular daytime television soap opera. She has received a lifetime achievement award, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and she recently won her first Emmy. She was sued by an unscrupulous former business partner for breach of contract. At issue in the lawsuit was Defendant’s alleged breach of contract relating to providing approval for the use of her name and likeness, and voiceovers in connection with a product.
Defendant raised concerns regarding the quality of the product, and raised legal questions, including whether Plaintiff had rights to use background music and the images in the marketing materials. As a result, Defendant did not give her consent for the use of her name, likeliness and voiceovers. Defendant had previously filmed an infomercial regarding the product, and Plaintiff claimed Defendant would not have filmed the infomercial if she had not consented.
Plaintiff testified at trial that he obtained Defendant’s final approval to sell the project and Defendant kept delaying because she wanted to buy him out. Plaintiff testified he would not have sold the project for less than $1,000,000.
Plaintiff frequently dealt with Defendant’s assistant and increasingly resented her involvement, commenting that she “undermined his authority as a man.” The assistant testified that in a conference call, Plaintiff called her a “bitch” and “cunt”. Plaintiff testified that he loves his mother and respects women, and would never have called the assistant a “cunt.” He then testified that he called the assistant a “bitch.” Plaintiff’s roommate testified that the assistant berated and provoked Defendant into using inappropriate language.
Procedural History: Plaintiff initially was pro per. The first mediation was not productive and ended with the mediator telling our client that she should fear for her safety. Plaintiff obtained counsel the first business day after Defendant won her Emmy, and the morning of an MSC before Judge Rosenberg. Plaintiff’s MSC demand was in the 7-figures. Plaintiff in pro per expressly waived jury and the judge denied Plaintiff’s request for relief from the waiver at the eleventh hour before trial.
The trial lasted 5 days, including 1 day interrupted by earthquake. Reports are that Michael dove under counsel table while our 79 year old client laughed at him from the stand.
Judge: Judge Kronstadt was very easy to try a case in front of. He seems to truly strive to get it right, though he admitted some surprise evidence over Michael’s objection. Our sense is that he likely would not have admitted the evidence had this been a jury trial. He later used the surprise evidence as a basis to find a defense witness not credible. Overall, he seemed like a no-nonsense judge who did not appreciate grandstanding or drama from counsel. He did not like overly-aggressive crosses, and tempered Michael’s cross of the Plaintiff a bit. Judge Kronstadt accommodated Michael’s attendance at Jack Daniels’ ABOTA Trial School for 3 days during the trial. My favorite part of the trial was the look on Judge Kronstadt’s face when in response to his question asking Michael why he needed to miss three potential trial days, Michael said, “Uh, I’m going to trial school.”
On Friday, September 19, 2008, he gave a long 20+ minute “tentative” ruling from the bench, including his assessment of the witnesses’ credibility (finding our client and her assistant credible, and raising some credibility issues for the Plaintiff and his roommate). His ruling spelled out his analysis of the facts and that he felt Defendant’s versions of the facts were more reasonable than Plaintiff’s. He found that Plaintiff had not met his burden of demonstrating the existence of the contracts, that Defendant breached any contracts, and that the contracts’ SOLs had run at the time of filing.
Plaintiff’s Counsel: John Hebb, Esq. – John was cordial and respectful throughout the proceedings. He came into the action late and was stuck with some tough deposition admissions that Michael obtained from his client.