Miami, FL Law Blog for Entertainment Law, Business Law, and Public Interest

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Condo investors say they were defrauded

By Pankaj Ladhar of Manos • Alwine P.L.

As you are likely all too aware, the real estate market in Miami and the rest of South Florida has been severely impacted by the downturn in the housing market. Home buyers and real estate investors who had a seemingly bright economic outlook several years ago are now facing depressed property valuations in a troubled real estate market. This has lead to an increase in real estate disputes as developers and investors seek to mitigate the damage from the economic troubles.

The Orlando Sentinel reports that litigation regarding a condominium development has landed the investors and the homebuilders back in federal court. The case is interesting because the investors are claiming that they were defrauded in violation of federal securities laws

Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit revived claims by the investors that the homebuilder had engaged in selling unregistered securities. The investors asserted that as investment opportunities, the promotion and sale of the condos was subject to federal securities laws. The court had previously dismissed these claims.

The investors said that when they were sold the condos, it was indicated that the units would be rented and managed by a management company. The company was supposed rent the units and then pay mortgage payments, utility costs and maintenance fees. Representatives for the investors say that these obligations were never carried out.

Ownership of an investment property is often an individual's first or only exposure to potential commercial lawsuits. While real estate developers and banks may be very accustomed to real estate litigation as simply a part of their everyday business, A private individual who decides to invest in real property may have never had to face this type of dispute before.

For both those unaccustomed to litigation it is important to seek advice from an experienced professional to help you protect your interests.

Source: Orlando Sentinel "Investors' condo suit versus Pulte revived," Mary, Shanklin, Nov. 6, 2011

Friday, November 4, 2011

Shaquille O'Neal sues for invasion of privacy

By Pankaj Ladhar of Manos • Alwine P.L.

For many people starting out in the entertainment industry, there is nothing that is desired more than attention from the public at large. For actors, singers and even athletes, notoriety can lead to endorsement contracts or bigger and better opportunities. That desire for celebrity also has a flip side. Once an entertainer has gained a certain level of notoriety they may find that privacy becomes one of their most valuable assets.

Shaquille O'Neal's talent on the basketball court has made him a household name ever since he was a star player for LSU. He successfully leveraged his performance on the court into an impressive entertainment career in film, endorsements, and music recording. O'Neal's celebrity seems to have proven a tempting target. O'Neal recently filed a lawsuit accusing an information technology worker he hired of stealing and selling his personal emails.

The lawsuit claims that O'Neal paid the IT professional up to $150 dollars an hour to set up a personal internet domain. O'Neal claims that the IT person retained access to the domain and used that access to obtain private emails which were then sold to various internet sites which made them public.

The lawsuit filed by O'Neal seeks unspecified damages along with an injunction to stop further dissemination of the emails and a return of all the emails that were stolen.

With so many people out there just waiting to take advantage of athletes and entertainers for their own personal gain, it is important to be vigilant in all your business dealing. This can apparently include something seemingly as innocuous as who you choose to set up your internet domain.

Source: Washington Post "Shaq sues former IT employee over selling of NBA great's personal emails," Nov. 3, 2011

Thursday, November 3, 2011

NBA player counter-sues former agent

By Pankaj Ladhar of Manos • Alwine P.L.

In September of 2011, NBA star Michael Beasley's agent filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against the player, accusing him of firing him to avoid paying commission on an endorsement deal. Beasley has since launched a counter suit against the man and his former coach. The lawsuit claims the pair violated NCAA rules and federal regulations in effort to add the player to his athlete contracts by providing his mother with "improper cash benefits" while Beasley was in college.

The lawsuit includes a summary of Beasley's life background, explaining that he was raised in single-parent household with little money. He struggled throughout high school, but eventually became noticed for his skill in basketball. After a team he played on folded, a coach approached him with an offer to join another team.

Beasley claims his mother could not afford to pay for him to join the team, but that his coach told his mother that she would not need to. Beasley eventually moved in with his coach before college and the two grew close.

Beasley claims that the agent funded the team so that the coach would recommend him to represent his player should they get the chance to play basketball professionally. When Beasley's mother encountered legal trouble, she alleges that the agent provided the coach with $2,500 in cash in order to pay for her fees.

Once Beasley entered college, his mother claims the agent offered to pay for her rent and car payments while her son attended school. Beasley claims he was not aware his mother was receiving this money until he employed the agent to represent him.

Both the coach and the agent at the center of the lawsuit deny the charges, saying that they only wished to provide opportunities for Beasley and his teammates, who otherwise would not likely be able to attend college.

Source: The Washington Post "Beasley files countersuit against agent alleging he received improper benefits at Kansas State," Oct. 27, 2011

Saturday, October 29, 2011

A whale of a custody dispute

By Pankaj Ladhar of Manos • Alwine P.L.

SeaWorld, the Florida based aquatic amusement park, won a lawsuit yesterday that will result in the return of a killer whale that it had loaned to another park. In 2006 SeaWorld agreed to loan the killer whale, known as Ikaika, to Marineland as part of breeding agreement, in return the SeaWorld was given four beluga whales.

In 2010 SeaWorld became concerned about the physical and psychological well-being of the killer whale and asked for it to be returned. Marineland refused and this litigation ensued. While the specific circumstances of this commercial dispute are more than a little unique, the underlying legal issues and the reasoning employed by the court is common in business litigation.

The court determined that the agreement between the two parties had a clear and commercially reasonable termination provision. The decision indicated that the agreement between the parties was not guaranteed to be a long-term relationship. A spokesperson for Marineworld indicated that they had expected that the deal would remain in place for the lifetimes of all the whales involved.

Often in business agreements, both parties work under the assumption that the arrangement will continue in a similar form going forward more or less indefinitely. This sometimes occurs. But in many cases, due to changes in circumstances, the arrangement must be modified or terminated. This is precisely the reason that businesses choose to express their agreements in contracts that include termination provisions and similar measures. The potential for one side to enforce these agreements when the other side would rather not is of course the central purpose of the contract.

Source: Toronto Sun, "Marineland ordered to hand over whale to U.S. owner," Alison Langley, Sept. 28, 2011

Friday, October 28, 2011

Amazon/IMDb sued for listing actress's age

By Pankaj Ladhar of Manos • Alwine P.L.

An actress who prefers to remain anonymous is pursuing damages against Internet Movie Database (IMDb) and its parent company Amazon for revealing her age on her public IMDb portfolio.

The actress was relatively unknown in the entertainment industry until 2003, when she listed herself on IMDb using an Americanized pseudonym. She claims this listing resulted in several entertainment jobs.

In 2008 she upgraded to an IMDb Pro subscription, which is designed for those in the entertainment industry specifically. The service allows its users to post and browse detailed profiles and contact information.

To purchase the service, the actress used her real name and date of birth. Her complaint alleges that IMDb used that information to determine her age, and then published that figure on the IMDb website where anyone can see it. The lawsuit alleges the actress loses work opportunities due to the listing of her age, which is close to forty. The lawsuit also alleges that IMDb was asked to remove her age but refused.

Amazon spokeswoman Mary Osako said Amazon does not comment on litigation. Similarly, IMDb has not answered e-mail requests for a statement.

The actress wishes to remain anonymous, her representative says, due to the fear of retaliation from defendants. Such retaliation, the attorney claims, could result in financial injury and even more damage to his client.

IMDb stated that the company procured the actress's age from her agent. Her attorney responded that the statement is untrue.

Amazon and IMDb stand accused of violating consumer protection and privacy laws, fraud, and breach of contract. The actress is suing for over $75,000 in compensatory damages and for over $1 million in punitive damages.

Source: CBS News "Actress sues Amazon for revealing her age on IMDb," Oct. 18, 2011

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Florida man claims his trademark is infringed by hotel

By Pankaj Ladhar of Manos • Alwine P.L.

A Florida man has asserted that a hotel, that is scheduled to open soon, will result in trademark infringement because it is plans to use the name "Octavius Tower." The owners of the hotel Caesars Entertainment Group then filed a federal lawsuit alleging that the Florida man is engaged in trademark Fraud.

The Florida man claims that he started a band in 1992 under the name Octavius Tower and that he received a trademark for the name in 2009. He further claims that he has used the name not just for the entertainment services of the band but also for broader entertainment and merchandising services. The Florida man sought an injunction to stop the opening of the hotel, but on Monday that requested injunction was denied by a federal judge.

The judge noted that the hotel had initially sought a trademark for the name in 2007 but development delays for the hotel caused them to abandon the application. A second application was filed by the hotel in 2010. The hotel's lawsuit alleges that two days after they announced plans for the hotel the Florida man registered the internet domain names for and

While the denial of the preliminary injunction will allow the hotel to go forward with the name for the time being, it does not bring an end to the underlying lawsuit. Now we will have to wait and see how the court views the arguments of both sides before issuing a final order to determine who has the right to the Octavius Tower name.

Source: Vegas Inc. "Caesars scores interim win in Octavius trademark lawsuit," Steve Green, Oct. 25, 2011

Friday, October 21, 2011

Traffic school owner in commercial lawsuit

By Pankaj Ladhar of Manos • Alwine P.L.

The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles has attempted to cancel a contract it entered into with a traffic school owner due to unforeseen complications. This action has resulted in a commercial lawsuit.

In the beginning, the Department entered into an agreement with the traffic school owner in which he agreed to print and distribute the Official Florida driver's Handbook. In exchange for his printing and distribution costs, the traffic school owner would gain exclusive advertising rights in the book, which is used by millions of people preparing for their driver's test.
Initially, it appeared like it was a great deal for both parties involved, but the trouble started when complaints filtered in that the traffic school owner's exclusive ad rights were leading the general public to believe that his driving school was the only one approved by the state of Florida. A commercial lawsuit ensued.

While the Florida DMV admits that the traffic school owner has held up his end of the bargain, they feel that the partnership has hindered their efforts to enter into contracts with other businesses involved in traffic safety. Thus, the Department notified the man that his contract would be canceled, to which he responded by suing and eventually winning the right renew the contract for an additional five years. Some time later, an appellate court ruled in favor of the DMV, opening up the stage for additional litigation.

The situation has resulted in an upheaval of the entire traffic school industry in Florida. The owner's online traffic school enrollment has surged, whole numbers in other schools have dropped dramatically. Competitors also complain that the traffic school owner is guilty of misleading advertising in regards to his school's fees.

The states of New York, Texas and California do not allow advertisements to be placed in their handbooks.

Source: St. Petersburg Times "Florida tries to undo traffic school owner's publishing contract," Susan Taylor Martin and Dan Sullivan, Oct. 16, 2011

Friday, October 21, 2011

Former "2 Live Crew" singer sues for defamation

By Pankaj Ladhar of Manos • Alwine P.L.

Last week we shared a story about the University of Miami football team. A number of players allegedly received improper gifts and cash from a supporter who is now accused of running a ponzi scheme. The former wrapper turned mayoral candidate, Luther Campbell, is now suing the allegedly scheming supporter for defamation.

Apparently, the supporter had told a reporter that when he was improperly providing the athletes with gifts and cash he was doing the same thing that Luther Campbell was doing in the 1980s and 1990s. Campbell says that by implying that he had engaged in similar activities, the promoter intended people to believe that Campbell had engaged in the same immoral and illegal activities as the promoter.

Remembering 2 Live Crew at the height of their popularity, it would have been exceedingly difficult to predict that Luther Campbell would someday be in a position where an adverse statement about his character could damage his future professional-political career and his ability to coach high school sports. But as is the case with many athletes and celebrities, their talents are not necessarily constrained to one field of endeavor.

No matter what type of reputation an entertainer decides to construct, as someone who is in the public spotlight an entertainer's reputation can have a significant impact on their ability to secure and retain employment. When false and derogatory statements are leveled against someone who relies upon their reputation for their livelihood, it can have cause substantial damage to their ability to earn an income.

Source: NBC Miami "Rapper Luther Campbell Suing Miami Booster Nevin Shapiro for Defamation," Brian Hamacher, Sept. 21, 2011

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Naples Bay Resort doing good business, but still in danger of going under

By Pankaj Ladhar of Manos • Alwine P.L.

A commercial dispute related to loan made to develop the Naples Bay Resort is making it difficult for the resort to secure outside financing despite their contention that they are doing brisk business. So far the developer has been able to cover any cash shortfalls to keep the business operating, but he says that he is unwilling to do so for much longer.

The ongoing litigation which seems to have placed a cloud over the project is centered on purported claims made by the developer while securing financing from Fifth Third Bank. The bank says that the developer falsely represented the collateral that he had posted for the loan. The developer disputes these claims.

The property is facing foreclosure and has been put under the oversight of a court-appointed receiver. The receiver says that the resort is having a good year. He explained that occupancy rates are up significantly and that their daily rates are up as well. The developer says that business is up 40 percent from last year and that they are on the verge of breaking even.

Despite the growth in the resort's business, the receiver says that it will need more than $3million in the next year to keep operating. The receiver is working to secure this financing but agrees that the ongoing litigation makes it difficult.

Sometimes, even despite being able to get a business off the ground in a tough economy, unanticipated litigation can present an obstacle going forward. When facing this type of litigation it is important to work with someone who understands not only your goals in the litigation but also your larger business goals and helps develop a strategy that can achieve them both.

Source: "Business is up at Naples Bay Resort, but new financing is needed to keep it going," Laure Layden, Oct. 18, 2011

Friday, October 14, 2011

Furniture manufacturer wins seven-figure lawsuit

By Pankaj Ladhar of Manos • Alwine P.L.

A major furniture designer and manufacturer won a lawsuit last week against a company they claim imported and distributed unauthorized copies of some of their proprietary furniture designs. The copyright infringement case named one major retailer, and a few other defendants in the lawsuit. Although the furniture manufacturer would not release the exact figure of the award, they did claim that it was a seven-figure settlement.

The case was filed late last year in the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of Florida. The lawsuit alleged that several designs were stolen and copied without the manufacturer's consent, including a dining table, bed, and bookcase. Authorities from the company cited the lawsuit as yet another example of the manufacturer's dedication to ending copyright infringement of their products, and should serve as a warning to others that might attempt the same thing.

One representative from the manufacturer claimed that the alleged theft of their furniture designs was only one major example of a history of design "copycats" that attempted to illegally sell bootleg copies of their furniture on sites like eBay. The company also soon issued a statement warning customers of the dangers inherent in purchasing the company's furniture online. According to the statement, the copied furniture was not likely to follow the same exacting standards, and could be inexpensive, low-quality duplicates.

Representatives from the furniture manufacturer have vowed to continue enforcing copyright and trademark rights on the company's furniture, and wish to maintain that exclusivity that the company offers customers who purchase their products.

Source: Furniture Today "Habersham wins damages in copyright infringement case," Thomas Russell, Oct. 5, 2011

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

David Cassidy suing for Partridge Family merchandising

By Pankaj Ladhar of Manos • Alwine P.L.

One of the original teen sensations, David Cassidy, is suing Sony for proceeds from Partridge Family merchandise. Cassidy claims that the show garnered about $500 million in merchandise sales but that he only ever received $5,000.

He claims that his contract, executed more than 40 years ago, called for him to receive a portion of the proceeds from any merchandise bearing his image, and a smaller portion of the proceeds from any other Partridge Family merchandise.

Cassidy's contract dispute case is based on misappropriation of right of publicity, breach of contract, open book accounting, civil conspiracy, negligent misrepresentation, and constructive fraud.

Sony has responded to the charges by acknowledging that its right to use Cassidy's name for merchandising expired in the 1970's, but it says that it is not required to share any proceeds from Partridge Family merchandise. Sony went on to explicitly question whether Cassidy understood the difference between merchandise which uses Cassidy's name, voice, or likeness and Partridge Family merchandise.

For many entertainers, attempting to secure a fair share of these sort of back-end profits is difficult and complicated. Depending on the situation, studios may prefer to pay out a bit more up front in order to avoid having to share any future profits.

There is not a one-size-fits-all piece of advice to determine when a contract is best for either the studio or the entertainers. It is important though that both parties to this sort of agreement receive experienced and appropriate guidance to help ensure that they make the best agreement possible.

Source: SheKnows Entertainment "David Cassidy suing Sony," Caroline Goddard, Oct. 05, 2011

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