Two national classes sue 24 Hour Fitness for its unhealthy pay practices.
Last Updated: March 2010
Two separate national classes of 24 Hour Fitness employees have been certified in a collective action against 24 Hour Fitness under the Fair Labor Standards Act. Both classes are being vigorously represented by Foley Bezek Behle & Curtis, LLP and co-counsel in the Northern District of California.
The first class consists of managers who allege that they were misclassified as “exempt” employees not entitled to (and not paid any) overtime pay. The second class consists of personal trainers who were not compensated for the hours they were required to work off the clock. 24 Hour Fitness required personal trainers to conduct sales, “work the floor,” provide health assessments, perform training sessions, clean and restack weights, and so on – without even paying them a minimum wage for those hours. Both groups of employees seek unpaid back wages and overtime. By successfully arguing for equitable tolling FBBC received claims periods covering 8-10 years worth of employment for each class.
The discovery phase of the litigation is now finished, FBB&C having defended nearly four dozen depositions in over a half a dozen states. These depositions occurred after FBB&C and co-counsel took nearly a dozen depositions of 24 Hour executives and waded through hundreds of thousands of pages of documents produced and millions of payroll records.
In the late 1990s, Troy Duffy was an unknown writer/director working as a bouncer in a bar in Hollywood. He had moved to Hollywood a few earlier in the hopes of making it big. While working at the bar, Duffy met independent film producer Chris Brinker. Duffy shared with Brinker the script for The Boondock Saints. Together, they successfully shopped the Film and attracted interest in the properties from big name entertainment and music companies, including Miramax Films and Mavericks Records.
The Film was eventually financed and distributed by Franchise Pictures in conjunction with Comerica Bank. Though it had a limited theatrical release, when it hit the home theater market, The Boondock Saints became the highest grossing video rental at Blockbuster Stores during its six month run. Despite its huge cult success, years went by and creators Duffy and Brinker did not see a dime.
Through a combination of tenacity and audacity, Duffy and Brinker’s investigation uncovered Franchise Pictures’ complicated financial scheme whereby in direct violation of their contract with Franchise, Franchise first sold the Film in packages with other Films when it was distributed and then, with Comerica Bank, had the profits from The Boondock Saints to pay off the debt for less popular films also financed by Comerica. A series of lawsuits were filed against Franchise Pictures, Comerica Bank, the film’s major domestic distributor, Spartan Home Entertainment, LLC, and various other distribution companies and their officers and directors.
After years of unsuccessful litigation, Duffy and Brinker brought in Foley Bezek Behle & Curtis, LLP. Through FBB&C’s creative and aggressive representation, the officers and directors of all companies except Spartan settled on “confidential” terms. FBB&C was now primed to take on the major players – Comerica Bank, Spartan, and Spartan’s executives. The first trial was against Comerica Bank. That trial ended in a confidential settlement after FBB&C rested its case. Very soon after that settlement, the companion case against Spartan settled for a “confidential” cash payment and long-term royalty payments to FBB&C’s clients related to the distribution of the Film on DVD.
Obviously unhappy, Spartan filed a new retaliatory lawsuit against Duffy and Brinker alleging trademark infringement of Film-related merchandise that Duffy and Brinker had been distributing for years. FBB&C acted aggressively and decisively, filing a counterclaim against Spartan and getting Spartan’s entire case thrown out on summary judgment in the same year. Negotiations with Spartan on the counterclaim resulted in a very favorable settlement for Duffy and Brinker that included a “confidential” payment, return of the theatrical rights for the Film, as well as confirmation of Duffy and Brinker’s exclusive rights to the trademarks and merchandise for both The Boondock Saints and the sequel, The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day.
EFX Performance, Inc. adv. Simonian.
EFX Performance, Inc. adv Simonian. In the second putative class action brought against EFX Performance, Inc., this one filed in the Central District of California, alleging a national class under California’s consumer protection laws, FBBC obtained a full dismissal of all claims in favor of its client. On January 20, 2011, one day after the first of what would become four lawsuits was filed against EFX, this first copycat lawsuit was filed by a preeminent plaintiffs’ class action law firm. Upon receipt of the complaint, FBBC acted swiftly to develop a successful litigation strategy to defeat the case. Eventually, under threat of a motion to dismiss, Plaintiff’s counsel re-thought their case, ultimately dismissing it altogether.
EFX Performance, Inc. adv. Geffner
EFX Performance, Inc. adv Geffner. In the third putative class action brought against EFX Performance, Inc., this one filed in New Jersey, alleging a national class under the New Jersey Consumer Protection Law, FBBC obtained a full dismissal of claims in favor of its client. On March 1, 2011, six weeks after the first two lawsuits were filed against EFX in California (one in state court and one in federal court), this second copycat lawsuit was filed in New Jersey. Upon receipt of the complaint, FBBC acted swiftly to team up with local counsel in New Jersey. The team’s focused and aggressive litigation caused Plaintiff’s counsel to re-think their case, ultimately dismissing it altogether.
A settlement has been reached in two class actions alleging that AT&T Wireless engaged in unfair, deceptive and misleading bill practices. The settlements, which were approved today by the Honorable Christina A. Snyder, require that AT&T Wireless pay benefits to the class members up to approximately $80,981,548 as set forth in more detail below.
CASE NAMES: Paul Lozano v. AT&T Wireless and Heather Stern v. AT&T Mobility
TYPE OF CASES: Class Action
JUDGE: The Honorable Christina A. Snyder – United States District Court, Central District of California
PLAINTIFFS REPRESENTED BY: Peter J. Bezek and Robert A. Curtis of FOLEY BEZEK BEHLE & CURTIS, LLP; J. Paul Gignac of ARIAS OZZELLO & GIGNAC, LLP
FACTS: On November 15, 2010, after eight and a half years of litigation, the United States District Court approved two class action settlements, Paul Lozano v. AT&T Wireless and Heather Stern v. AT&T Mobility, requiring that AT&T Wireless pay benefits to the class members up to approximately $80,981,548.
Plaintiff Paul Lozano initially contracted with AT&T Wireless in May of 2001 under a monthly calling plan called the Digital Advantage Plan, which provided Plaintiff Lozano with 400 “Included Minutes” per month at a cost of $29.99 per month. In September 2001, Plaintiff Lozano noticed something peculiar on his AT&T Wireless bill. Although Plaintiff Lozano’s bill for that month covered a billing cycle beginning August 17, 2001 and ending September 16, 2001, 136 minutes (or $54.40) appeared on his bill for calls that were placed or received during the prior month’s billing cycle. Plaintiff Lozano later learned that he had been the victim of a phenomenon which AWS refers to as “out-of-cycle billing.”
The Lozano class action involves the unfair, deceptive and misleading practices engaged in by AT&T Wireless of: (a) billing consumers for out-of-cycle billing; and (b) failing to fully and adequately disclose to its customers the likelihood, impact and absence of any means to avoid out-of-cycle billing. Plaintiff Heather Stern visited the AT&T Wireless store and enrolled in a two-year wireless telephone service plan. Before leaving the store with her new service plan, Plaintiff Stern was not asked to sign any document or otherwise acknowledge that she would be receiving any services other than the monthly calling plan. Thereafter, without her consent, AT&T Wireless began charging Plaintiff Stern for various “monthly service charges,” including charges for “ENH DISCOUNT INTL DIAL” (at the rate of $3.99/month) and “MMODE/DATA SERVICE” (at the rate of $2.99/month). Neither charge was authorized by Plaintiff Stern.
The Stern class action involves the unfair, deceptive and misleading practices engaged in by AT&T Wireless of: (1) assessing charges on its customers’ bills for services not authorized by its customers (a practice known as “cramming”); and (2) failing to clearly and accurately describe the services which are the subject of the charges.
As a result, these two Plaintiffs sought the help of Foley Bezek Behle & Curtis, LLP and Arias Ozzello & Gignac, LLP, who together filed two separate class action lawsuits against AT&T Wireless in the Central District of California. AT&T Wireless fought the Lozano case for eight and a half years and the Stern case for six years before finally agreeing to settle both case.
RESULT: The settlement reached on behalf of both class actions and approved by the United States District Court requires AT&T Wireless to pay benefits to all class members who submit a claim up to approximately $80,981,548. The reaction of the members of this class to this settlement was extremely positive as less than 50 of the more than 10,000,000 class members (or 0.0005%) opted-out of the settlement at the final approval hearing.
Smith adv. Westport
FBBC successfully defends couple personally sued for $2,400,000 by commercial lender. After obtaining a complete victory for its clients, with the jury awarding the lender zero dollars on a claimed $2,400,000 guaranty, FBBC then successfully obtained an order from the Court compelling the lender to pay all of the couple’s attorney’s fees and expenses incurred in the case. Despite the vociferous objection by the lender, the couple was awarded nearly $300,000 in attorney’s fees and expenses from the lender. At the same time, the lender filed a motion for a new trial and a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict. Both of the lender’s motions were denied by the Court.
On December 2, 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in B&B Hardware Inc. v. Hargis Industries Inc. et al., a highly anticipated trademark case that could have wide-reaching effects for trademark owners and practitioners alike.
William Hablinski and Richard Manion, Architects whose firms’ design and supervise the construction of high-end homes in desirable neighborhoods, with the guidance and dedication of FBBC, finally achieves another judgment in the landmark Architectural Copyright Act litigation, this one against the former employee who stole their firms’ home designs.
Hablinski’s and Manion’s firms have designed many of the large-scale custom homes that line mountainous Mulholland Drive corridor and exclusive streets in Beverly Hills, Bel-Air and Pacific Palisades (especially in the Platinum Quadrangle). The firms’ commissions include the Mayfair condominium in New York City, Villas Del Mar Condominium in Pasadena, California and residences for Oak Creek Canyon Ranch in Montecito, California, as well as designs for such notable clients as Warren Beatty and Annette Bening, Arnold Scwarzeneggar and Maria Shriver, Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck, Jim Carrey, and Vanna White.
With the average custom designed residence at 20,000 square feet, celebrities, business moguls and the social elite turn to Hablinski and Manion to create elegant residences that rival the finest chateaus in France and villas in Italy.
After designing a custom home worth millions of dollars for Los Angeles real estate mogul, Fred Sands, Hablinski’s and Manion’s employees discovered a shockingly similar home seven miles to the west. Hablinski and Manion had invested more than 3,800 hours creating the Sands home and it was painful for them to see a copycat home just down the road, with the authorship of the plans being ascribed to their employee, Mehran Shahverdi. “I use original compositions and very distinct elements that are my signature to create one-of-a-kind homes,” Hablinski said.
Hablinski and Manion had kept a design library that had taken more than 15 years to develop. They alleged that one of their employees had stolen a number of these original designs, in addition to the Sands design, from this library.
The case against their disloyal employee, Shahverdi, was eventually transferred to private arbitration, but a separate Federal case against his co-conspirators went to trial first. With the help of FBBC, Hablinski and Manion in 2005 first obtained, what at the time was the country’s largest and only verdict against a third party contractor/homeowner who had conspired with the employee to infringe a single family residential Architectural Work–$5,900,000. Now, just recently, in 2010, FBBC also obtained an Award from the Arbitrator, confirmed as a Judgment, against Shahverdi for an additional $950,000.
Author: GK Communications: Amy Goldsmith (310) 440-0646
CELEBRITY ARCHITECT AWARDED 5.9 MILLION FOR COPIED PLANS “Copycat” Verdict Tests 1990 Federal Architectural Copyright Act; Becomes Country’s Largest and Only Verdict Against a Third Party Contractor/Homeowner
LOS ANGELES–13 April, 05- In a verdict that will further protect the work of architects and lead to liability for contractors and homeowners responsible for unauthorized use of architectural plans, a jury awarded Los Angeles-based William Hablinski Architecture (currently DBA Hablinski+Manion Architecture) a 5.9 million verdict after its plans for a multimillion dollar home were copied and used to build a structure replicating the original.
Following a three week trial, a six-member jury deliberated for a day-and-a-half before determining that two firms, Amir Construction, Inc., and EuroConcepts, Inc., — and the four Elihu brothers who own the companies — conspired with Mehran Shahverdi, a former Hablinski+Manion employee, to copy plans for a million Bel-Air, California mansion. The copied plans were use to build a million Beverly Hills home.
“Mr. Hablinski took a legal stand in favor of all architects and artisans who have a right to protect their work and inspiration,” said Peter J. Bezek, the attorney representing Hablinski+Manion. “This was difficult and expensive litigation for a man who believed in the integrity of artistic work and he was not dissuaded by those who warned him that he could not win and the costs could bankrupt his firm. I am very proud of his integrity and dedication.”
“This is a significant verdict because it confirms the broad scope of copyright protection available to architects and other artists,” said Roger N. Behle, Jr., co-counsel for Hablinski+Manion. “Third parties, such as contractors and homeowners, can be held liable for the infringing activities of those they hire. As a result, homeowners must be very careful when they hire someone to design plans. It is up to the homeowner to know who they are dealing with.”According to comments made in court and to the media when the suit was filed, the Elihu brothers claimed they had no idea the plans were copied.
After designing a custom home worth millions of dollars for Los Angeles real estate mogul Fred Sands, Hablinski and his employees discovered a shockingly similar home seven miles to the west. The designer of the “Copycat House” was a former draftsman at Hablinksi + Manion Architecture. The owner of the “copycat” house is the president of EuroConcepts, the firm that provided the plumbing and bath fixtures for the original Fred Sands design.
The federal suit filed in September of 2003 alleged copyright and trademark infringement, unfair competition, conspiracy and other claims. The suit tested and solidified the bounds of the Architectural Works Copyright Protection Act of 1990. Previously, architects could only copyright their architectural plans, but this law extends the protection to building designs as well.
“I use original compositions and very distinct elements that are my signature to create one-of-a-kind homes,” said William Hablinksi. “I spent more than 3,800 hours creating the Sands home and it was painful for me, my employees and our client to see a copycat down the road.”
Hablinksi encourages other architects to register copyrights on all their work and pursue damages if a copyright is infringed.
Hablinski+Manion is still seeking damages from Mehran Shahverdiin a state court arbitration proceeding. This matter is still pending.
Hablinski + Manion is best known for its respect of traditional forms and historic imagery. The award-winning firm has designed many of the large-scale custom homes that line the mountainous Mulholland Drive corridor and exclusive streets in Beverly Hills, Bel-Air and Pacific Palisades. The Firm’s commissions include the Mayfair Condominium in New York City, Villas Del Mar Condominium in Pasadena, Calif. and residences for Oak Creek Canyon Ranch in Montecito, Calif., as well as designs for such notable clients as Warren Beatty and Annette Bening, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver, Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck, Jim Carrey, and Vanna White.
With the average custom designed residence at 20,000 square feet, celebrities, business moguls and the social elite turn to Hablinski + Manion Architecture to create elegant residences that rival the finest chateaus in France and villas in Italy.
About Hablinski + Manion Architecture
Founded in 1978, Hablinski + Manion Architecture is considered one of the Country’s foremost large-scale architects. William Hablinski and Richard Manion’s designs are internationally renowned for their respect to traditional forms and historic imagery. The architecture carefully integrates unique design elements into outwardly graceful environments that provide the Firm’s signature of simple elegance. With more than 24 employees, Hablinski + Manion Architecture has offices in Beverly Hills and Austin, Texas. For more information, please visit: www.hablinski-manion.com
by Santa Barabara Independent
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