by Janet Roberts
A tale of four firms and their in-house trial technology departments. Continue reading Home Grown Tech
by Peter J. Bezek and Darla Anderson*
Imagine that you’re General Counsel for a five-year old company that designs products for the computer industry. From its inception, your company-Design Works-has had a website on the Internet at the domain name www.designworks.com. To further ensure that potential customers searching the Internet will find the company’s website, its metatags include the words “design works.” (Metatags, the computer code that describes a website’s contents, are used by Internet search engines to locate websites responsive to search requests). The website also repeatedly includes the statement, “Design Works’ management team was once part of the Hewlett Packard Design Team.” Continue reading Trademarks in Cyberspace
by Peter J. Bezek and Robert Curtis
Studies show that when people merely hear information, they retain only about 10 percent of what they hear, while people exposed to a combination of oral information with visual aids retain approximately 85 percent of that information. . With this in mind, it becomes clear that a trial lawyer who spends most of his courtroom time simply talking about his case will be far less effective than a lawyer who uses an effective combination of the aural and the visual when presenting a case. Trial technology can be used throughout a trial to enhance the jury’s sensory experience and thus enhance the impact and presentation of the opening statement, the examination of witnesses, the presentation of evidence, and the closing statement. Continue reading The Effective Use of Trial Techonolgy in Complex Business Litigation
by Peter J. Bezek and Robert A. Curtis
The Internet has become an international marketplace for products and ideas. The Internet’s growth is astonishing: in 1995, there were about 100,000 domain names … in 2000, there were over 24,000,000 domain names ending in ” .com “, ” .net “, and ” .org ” alone. Continue reading The Tangled Web We Weave: Internet Domain Name Disputes
Peter J. Bezek and Robert A. Curtis
The vast world of cyberspace and the Internet allow a company to promote its business and products in ways never thought of during the days of print ads and television commercials. However, the dark side of this burgeoning and lucrative marketing opportunity is that countless competitors are lurking who may use the Internet to infringe on trademarks. Carefully hidden within the computer code of a competitor’s website may be your company’s trademark, trade name, or famous name, placed there in a calculated attempt to lure unwitting customers to your competitor’s website. In this dog eat dog world of e-commerce, what is a company to do to protect against these calculated trademark infringements? Continue reading Metatag Mischief: How to Protect Your Copyright
by Peter J. Bezek and Robert A. Curtis
Internet and e-mail use is proliferating throughout the business world. Employer monitoring of employee Internet use and e-mail is also on an upward swing. But before jumping on the monitoring bandwagon, employers should consider the costs and benefits of monitoring… Continue reading Employer Monitoring of Employee Internet Use and Email
A federal judge last month set deadlines in a proposed class action lawsuit that accused Herbalife Ltd. of operating a pyramid scheme.
Smith adv. Westport
FBBC successfully defends couple personally sued for $2,400,000 by commercial lender. The lender sued the couple seeking $2,400,000 on a personal guarantee agreement they signed. The couple signed the agreement with the lender guaranteeing the debt of a family member’s business. When that business went under, the lender personally sued the couple for recovery of the entire debt, totaling $2,400,000. If successful, the suit would have economically devastated the couple. After a three-week jury trial, FBBC obtained a complete exoneration for the couple. FBBC proved that the lender had concealed information from the couple, lulling them into signing the guarantee by, among other things, withholding key information from them. As a result, the jury found in favor of the couple on all claims, awarding the lender nothing. The couple is now pursuing recovery of all their legal fees and expenses from the lender.
What began as a telephone call to complain to AT&T Wireless for billing overcharges turned into a nationwide legal slugfest fought on behalf of hundreds of thousands of miffed AT&T customers— ultimately resulting in a hefty $47 million dollar settlement. Represented by a small Santa Barbara law firm, Austin, Texas resident German Godoy, took his fight to AT&T on behalf of himself and all others who he believed were similarly wronged by AT&T.
The case started when Mr. Godoy decided to cancel his wireless service with AT&T partway through his billing cycle. Upon receiving his bill, he discovered that he was charged for the entire billing cycle, even though he had only used his telephone for a portion of the month in which he cancelled. Understandably upset for paying for service he did not want or use, Mr. Godoy contacted Santa Barbara based class action attorneys Foley, Bezek, Behle & Curtis, LLP. Attorneys at Foley, Bezek, Behle & Curtis, LLP together with the Santa Barbara law firm of Arias Ozzello & Gignac, LLP and the Washington State law firm of Tousley Brain and Stephens, PLLC filed a nationwide class action lawsuit against AT&T the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington (AT&T’s principal place of business) for unfair and deceptive billing practices.
The class action alleged that prior to May of 2003, when a customer of AT&T cancelled wireless service, AT&T’s uniform practice was always to “pro rate” the monthly service charge — charging the customer only for the portion of the billing cycle during which the wireless service actually was used (i.e., through the date of cancellation of service). AT&T, however, saw an opportunity to generate additional revenue from its fleeing customers by implemented a uniform company policy of not pro rating but instead charging its customers for a full billing cycle for the month in which the cancellation took place in direct violation of its existing terms and conditions. This unfair and deceptive practice was intended to quickly generate income from lost customers in the telecom industry equivalent of saying, “Don’t let the door hit you on the way out!” The class action complaint sought damages for Violation of the Federal Communications Act, Breach of Contract, Unjust Enrichment and Declaratory Relief. Several months after Mr. Godoy filed his complaint, the firm of Lieff, Cabraser, Heimann & Bernstien filed a similar complaint and the two actions were consolidated by stipulation.
In the midst of the grueling class action battle with AT&T, Plaintiffs learned of a situation on the east coast that could have potentially wiped-out Mr. Godoy’s entire case. Unbeknownst to the Plaintiffs, AT&T had recently entered into settlement negotiations with another group of law firms who had filed a similar action in the Superior Court of New Jersey rather than the face the tough prosecution of the action by the Plaintiffs’ team of lawyers. When Plaintiffs learned of the settlement, which offered just over $2 million in recovery to the class, Plaintiffs were shocked.
Undeterred by the fact that a New Jersey judge had preliminarily approved the settlement, Plaintiffs’ attorneys decided to take the fight to the New Jersey Courts. Plaintiffs alleged, amongst other things, that the proposed settlement was inadequate and let AT&T off the hook at the consumers’ expense. Although the New Jersey Judge initially denied Plaintiffs’ motion to intervene into the case, the Plaintiffs’ attorneys ultimately persuaded the Court that the settlement reached in the New Jersey action did not adequately compensate the class. In a well-reasoned, 11-page decision, the Honorable Judge Bernstein of the Essex County, New Jersey Superior Court concluded that “the settlement was unfair.” Shortly after the decision, AT&T approached Plaintiffs’ counsel in an attempt to reach a global settlement of both the Washington and New Jersey actions. In a remarkable turnaround and as a result of the Plaintiffs’ attorneys’ efforts including objecting to the initial settlement and leading the negotiations of the revised settlement, the New Jersey court ultimately approved a revised settlement valued at over $40,000,000 to be distributed to the class of former-AT&T customers
The extreme tenacity of Foley, Bezek, Behle, & Curtis, LLP took what was otherwise a miniscule claim and turned it into a nationwide case that successfully compensated hundreds of thousands of consumers across America and taught AT&T that if they wrong their customers, they will have to pay the price. This was a true victory for consumers across America.
FBBC helped a family-owned produce company exonerate a debt in excess of $18 million and helped the company obtain a highly lucrative real property reconveyance by the lender valued at over $22 million in a lender liability dispute.
The produce company was a successful family-owned and operated commercial produce grower and packer, in business for more than 50 years. The produce company and a large nationally recognized bank had been engaged in relationship lending for a number of years where the Bank would provide the company the necessary funds to finance each growing season. During the 2009 growing season, the company was forced to close its doors and “default” on its loans to the Bank.
In May 2009, the Bank filed a complaint seeking more than $18 million from the company and its personal guarantor (a principal in the company). The Bank sought to foreclose on all real property owned by the company in repayment of the debt, while claiming that there was a deficiency to be paid personally by the guarantor. The real property had a fair market value, according to the Bank of slightly more than $13,000,000, leaving the guarantor liable for approximately $5,000,000.
The company hired Foley, Bezek, Behle & Curtis, LLP, who promptly went to work opposing the Bank’s Complaint, and mounted a counter-attack. The company filed a cross-complaint, alleging that the Bank caused it millions of dollars in damages on theories of fraud, breach of oral contract, intentional interference with prospective economic advantage, and other lender liability claims.
The Bank tried to end the case early by filing Motions for Summary Judgment in mid-2010. In a 30 page opinion, the Superior Court concluded that the Bank was not entitled to Summary Judgment, but instead would be required to stand trial and defend against the cross-complaint. After careful consideration of the Court’s comments and conclusions in its written ruling, the Bank determined to settle the case by canceling all debt and guarantees, and returning all real estate pledged by the company for a payment slightly in excess of $4.0 million dollars. The effect of the settlement was to release over $18,000,000 in debt and to return real property valued in excess of $22,000,000 for a payment of slightly more than $4.0 million dollars.