Mark D. Baute Trial Practice and Case Summaries
Howard Entertainment, Inc. v. Lisa Kudrow
Two week jury trial involving the syndication revenue from the well-known television show “Friends.” The primary claim was a breach of oral contract claim brought by Scott Howard, Lisa Kudrow’s former business manager. Mr. Baute inherited the case from prior counsel after four years of pre-trial work, with six months left before trial. Quick expert witness retention decisions were made, and the case was tried to a jury in Santa Monica, California. ABC News filmed and televised the entire cross examination of Lisa Kudrow. It was undisputed at trial that Ms. Kudrow terminated Scott Howard’s services years ago. The primary issue was whether Mr. Howard was entitled to 10% of the syndication revenue negotiated during his tenure, despite the lack of a written contract and despite the parties’ failed memories concerning the terms of the contract. The case was tried with experts on both sides on the central issue of whether a 10% commission on deals consummated pre-termination was a standard custom and practice that would operate as a contractual term in the absence of an express written or oral understanding. The jury reached a verdict of $1,900,000 in favor of Scott Howard, against Lisa Kudrow, requiring that Mr. Howard be paid 10% of the Friends’ syndication revenue payable to Ms. Kudrow, long after she terminated his services.
Bulletin Display, Inc. v. Regency Outdoor Advertising:
Four week jury trial involving claims for racketeering and antitrust violations against our client. The case involved unique challenges as defense counsel because the plaintiff was able to procure testimony adverse to our client from an FBI agent, as well as testimony from two convicted felons, Paul Richards (former mayor of the City of Lynwood), and our client’s former lobbyist, Dave Smith, on an evidentiary record where our client’s conduit contribution was undisputed. Opposing counsel, Quinn Emmanuel, put the case through a full mock trial and was seeking $57,000,000 in damages. As one juror wrote in an unsolicited letter to the judge after the defense verdict was announced, a block of five jurors were strongly persuaded by defense counsel’s forceful closing argument, and those five jurors effectively persuaded the other three that a defense verdict was warranted. (Opposing counsel–Steve Madison and Duane Lyons of Quinn Emmanuel)
Nicollette Sheridan v. Touchstone Television:
Four week jury trial involving labor and employment and contract claims for a retaliatory firing orchestrated by Marc Cherry, with Touchstone approval, of the actress, Nicollette Sheridan from the TV show Desperate Housewives. Multiple executives including the former heads of ABC Network and ABC Studios came to court to testify that the decision to not renew Ms. Sheridan’s contract was made before Marc Cherry hit Ms. Sheridan in the head. Eight jurors rejected Touchstone’s defense and voted for Ms. Sheridan’s version of events. Hung jury, on an 8 to 4 vote for the plaintiff. The case is now on appeal, to be retried in 2016. (Opposing counsel, Mitchell, Silberberg & Knupp)
Neuberger v. Eber International, Inc:
Direct stockholder/breach of fiduciary duty claims by minority stockholder against the Board and controlling majority stockholder. The twelve week bench trial resulted in a lengthy opinion and monetary award for Karen Neuberger on two of the three liability claims against the Board and the controlling stockholder, Leonard Eber. (Opposing counsel: Seyfarth Shaw and Epstein Becker).
Raymond Weil, Inc. v. Charlize Theron:
Represented Charlize Theron in a breach of contract and fraud action involving an inadvertent breach of an exclusive endorsement contract for watches. Obtained summary judgment on the fraud claim in the Southern District of New York. Locked the Chairman of the Board and CEO into sufficiently damaging admissions on cross examination concerning the lack of monetary damages sustained by Raymond Weil that the case no longer had monetary value despite an undisputed breach of the contract. The trial judge gutted the claims of Raymond Weil in a nineteen page summary judgment ruling, limiting the plaintiff to a one day trial presentation and recognizing that the plaintiff’s damages may only be nominal.
Dallen Trealoff v. Forest River, Inc. / Forest River Inc. v. Eclipse Recreational Vehicles, Inc.:
Lead trial counsel in successful six week jury trial against a billionaire, Peter Liegl and his company, Forest River, Inc., which is now a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway, Inc. The jury’s unanimous verdict included findings of fraud and breach of oral contract, along with malice, against both Peter Liegl and Forest River, Inc., and a total monetary judgment of over $17,000,000, with $15,000,000 in punitive damages. The jury also rejected on a unanimous vote the misappropriation of trade secrets complaint filed against Eclipse Recreational Vehicles, Inc. by Forest River, Inc. Our clients were Dallen and Joanne Trealoff, a married couple who co-own and operate Eclipse Recreational Vehicles, Inc.
Langan v. Caskey & Holzman:
Four week bench trial inolving declaratory relief claims against former counsel.
The trial judge issued a 21 page opinion in favor of our client, Mr. Langan. (Opposing counsel, Ballard, Rosenberg, Golper & Savitt — Linda Savitt).
Hughes Electronics v. Insurance Carrier / Defense Contractor:
Lead trial counsel for plaintiff Hughes Electronics in a $30,000,000 case involving the disputed ownership of an over-funded deferred compensation plan in the context of the 1997 billion dollar reverse merger transaction between Hughes Electronics and Raytheon Company. The defendants relinquished control of $5,000,000 in cash on the eve of trial, and further agreed to relinquish control of the plan’s residual proceeds (approximately $25,000,000) to the plaintiff, Hughes Electronics, also on the eve of trial. (Opposing Counsel — Paul, Weiss and Meserve, Mumper and Hughes).
Gunderson v. Gruys:
Plaintiff’s counsel in four week jury trial against tax lawyer defendant. This trial was handled by both of the firm’s name partners because the case involved twenty-five pending felony counts on related issues and a cross-complaint seeking $20,000,000 in damages. The claims against the tax lawyer involved breach of fiduciary duty and fraud involving the tax lawyer’s theft of funds in connection with 2003 tax planning emanating out of the plaintiff’s decision to consumate a $45,000,000 sale transaction involving the remainder of his business. The jury came back with a unanimous 12-0 vote in favor of the plaintiff on all claims, and all defenses, a verdict of $11,200,000 on all of the plaintiff’s claims and a complete rejection of the entirety of the cross-complaint. (Defense counsel: Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton LLP).
RNC v. Oakwood:
Lead defense counsel in a tortious interference and unfair competition case between two privately held money management firms. Baute & Tidus took the case over from Latham & Watkins, obtained a reversal of a trial court ruling through a peremptory writ of mandate, in which the Court of Appeal ordered the trial court to reverse itself and enter judgment on behalf of the firm’s client. Defeated the opponent’s Petition for Review with the California Supreme Court and successfully opposed the defendant’s appeal of the underlying judgment. (Opposing counsel –Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher).
Technology Executive v. Publicly Traded Technology Company:
Lead trial counsel in a cutting edge stock-option dispute between our client, the plaintiff, who was previously a high-level employee of the defendant corporation. The defendant agreed to a $22,000,000 unrestricted stock based settlement on the eve of the pre-trial conference, shortly after the denial of both of the defendant’s summary judgment motions. (Opposing counsel — Baker Botts and Baker & Jacobson).
IEG, Inc. v. NBA:
Lead counsel in a tortious interference and antitrust case against the NBA stemming from the NBA’s refusal to allow Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan to perform in an offseason one-on-one pay per view contest. The case settled for a confidential sum while on appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. (Opposing Counsel — Skadden, Arps and Proskauer, Rose.)
North American Energy Services v. GENOR:
Lead trial counsel in a contested arbitration involving the breach/termination of the contract governing the operation of a power plant in Latin America. The AAA arbitration panel awarded the full amount (approximately $1,000,000) of the plaintiff’s requested damages. (Opposing counsel — Stroock, Stroock & Lavan).
Ferguson Safety Products, Inc. v. Bob Barker, Inc.:
Lead trial counsel in three week jury trial in Federal Court in the Northern District of California. The case involved fraud and unfair competition by a corporate defendant who wrongfully obtained and then misused the plaintiff’s anti-suicide smock and anti-suicide blanket designs and specifications. The jury returned an 8-0 unanimous verdict against the defendant in the amount of $2,250,000. (Opposing counsel — Hoge, Fenton, Jones & Appel).
Baja v. Bennett & Fairshter LLP:
Lead trial counsel in a five week jury trial against a law firm, on behalf of the former client of the law firm defendant. The jury returned a plaintiff’s verdict on all counts, including a verdict of fraud and conversion against the law firm. (Opposing Counsel –Lewis Brisbois).
Muranaka Farm, Inc. v. Arechiga:
Lead trial counsel in a four-week jury trial against competitor and former executive, for tortious interference, breach of contract, and unfair competition. The jury returned a plaintiff’s verdict of $5,000,000 on all counts against the target defendant.
DeRamus v. Record Transport, Inc.:
Lead Plaintiffs’ counsel in a wrongful death action against a trucking company. The defendant agreed to pay $4,000,000.00 as the trial date approached(opposing counsel — Lewis Brisbois).
City of San Diego V. Civic Center Associates, et al.:
Lead defense counsel in a fraud action filed against the owners and property manager of the City of San Diego’s primary office building in San Diego. Obtained a dismissal with prejudice and no payment to San Diego on behalf of the two owners of the Master Lease while a summary judgment motion was pending; the property manager, CB Richard Ellis, represented by separate counsel, was held liable and agreed to pay $3,000,000 to the City of San Diego.
GASP v. Finational, Inc.:
Obtained summary judgment against medical group’s collection vendor based upon a conflict of interest involving the medical group’s former lawyer.
Graf v. GASP: Lead defense counsel for medical group in connection with an assisted suicide parallel proceeding action, involving Fifth Amendment and peer review immunity arguments.
Adonis v. Chippendales:
Lead trial counsel on behalf of three plaintiffs in an antitrust, RICO, tortious interference and fraudulent transfer action against the owner of Chippendales. The $37,000,000 verdict was affirmed by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. (Opposing counsel –Howrey & Simon).
Emerald Bay Partners v. Heers:
Lead trial counsel in a Nevada real estate fraud and breach of fiduciary duty case involving disputed claims and ownership rights to two apartment developments. The arbitrator entered an $800,000 award against a local Las Vegas-based developer, in favor of our clients, Japanese investors who now control both developments.
GASP v. Seelig:
Prosecuted departing partner in medical group for breach of fiduciary duty and unfair competition. Individual physician defendant paid $500,000 to our client.
Jiles v. Bridgestone/Firestone, Inc.: Trial counsel for Bridgestone/Firestone, Inc. in a handicap discrimination case brought by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing. The case resulted in a published appellate decision in favor of Bridgestone/Firestone, Inc., allowing employers to terminate those employees whose physical disabilities prevent the performance of current job duties, and held that the duty to “reasonably accommodate” such employees does not include the duty to affirmatively change their job duties.
Teamsters v. World Service Co.:
Lead counsel for a 500 employee closely-held company in collective bargaining negotiations against the Teamsters. The collective bargaining agreement has enabled the company to thrive, in an environment where there is very little time or resources devoted to grievances and/or arbitrations. Twenty-five NLRB charges against the company have been dismissed.
Tengu Company, Inc. Re UFCW: Defeated the UFCW in a Union Election and in related post election proceedings in front of the NLRB.
Sidley v. Columbia Pictures, Inc.:
Successfully defended Columbia Pictures in a Malibu-based film location dispute involving the motion picture “Multiplicity.” Columbia’s motion for summary judgment was granted, and the plaintiff (an attorney) was sanctioned for filing a frivolous appeal.
Shipley v. North American Energy Services:
Successfully defended North American Energy Services in Federal Court in Ohio on a sexual harassment case.
Wilson v. RSM Management Co.:
Successfully defeated Mary Wilson’s claim to The Supremes trademark on behalf of RSM Management Co. and Harmony Artists, Inc. Though Wilson started as the plaintiff, she finished as a defendant and agreed to pay our client fees for her ill-advised effort to control The Supremes service mark.
[Confidential Settlement (Co-Plaintiffs v. Dresser Industries)]: Successfully defended an 80,000 employee oil service company in two-plaintiff age discrimination case, involving a plant closure and related merger. The disparate impact theory presented by the plaintiff was exceptionally difficult to defend.
Johnson Controls, Inc. v. The Fluor Corporation:
Successfully defended The Fluor Corporation in a construction defect case involving an explosion at an oil refinery. The dispositive issue was whether branch welds in a particular pipeline were defective. The forum was the American Arbitration Association.
[Confidential Settlement]: Successfully defended a wholly owned subsidiary of a large Japanese conglomerate in connection with a multiple borrower default on a cogeneration facility. The loan amount was approximately $80,000,000.00, and the critical issues were real estate (anti-deficiency issues) and corporate (whether a parent company could be held responsible for a subsidiary’s obligations).
Read v. MXC:
Lead defense counsel in a three week Federal Court antitrust jury trial in South Dakota. The defense victory included cost-shifting of $200,000 against the plaintiff, after the plaintiff exhausted his appellate rights in front of the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals and the United States Supreme Court.
Ramirez v. Dresser Industries, Inc.: Defeated class action and related certification motion in front of Judge Manella in the United States District Court for the Central District of California. This was a labor case involving a plant closure in Montebello, California. The case settled for nuisance value shortly after the class action certification motion was denied. (Opposing counsel — Gilbert & Sackman).
Latham & Watkins v. Oakwood Capital Management LLC:
Ten day jury trial involving Latham & Watkins unpaid legal bill.
Ramirez v. Dresser Industries, Inc.: Defense judgment in labor arbitration brought by three employees who challenged Dresser Industries’ failure to provide severance upon plant closure.
Gouskos, et al v. HomeFed Bank:
Lead counsel in obtaining a $500,000 verdict in Federal Court (Southern District of California) on behalf of seven former commercial bankers; the RTC had refused to honor their severance packages upon the RTC’s takeover of HomeFed Bank.
Lipkins v. UCLA Medical Center, et al.:
Retained for trial testimony by the law offices of Johnnie Cochran, to serve as a damages expert in wrongful death trial involving a friend and colleague who died of a mismanaged sickle-cell anemia crisis.
[Confidential Settlement]: Lead counsel in a 123 counter defendant antitrust action on behalf of a small closely held company. Litigated against an insurance carrier to provide financing for the lawsuit and eventually obtained a multi-million dollar confidential settlement after seven years of hard fought litigation against 123 hospitals and their lead trade association.
Beverly Hills Savings & Loan v. Cushman & Wakefield:
Successfully obtained insurance coverage and defended Cushman & Wakefield on a professional liability claim involving a Silicon Valley commercial office building project.
Samaria v. Tamiya America, Inc.:
Lead trial counsel in obtaining an arbitration verdict against Tamiya America, Inc. in a breach of contract case involving a high-level executive’s employment contract.
Chadwick v. Original Hollywood Diner:
Lead trial counsel in five day jury trial, culminating in a jury verdict against the defendant on a retaliation claim, among others.
Gibson, Dunn v. Carol Wior, Inc.:
Lead counsel for defendant in ten day jury trial involving fee dispute and professional liability defense.
Martinez v. Dresser Industries:
Successfully defended Dresser Industries in an age discrimination case brought by a sixty-two year old plaintiff who had been employed with the company for thirty-four years. The case was litigated primarily on the issues of job elimination and reduction-in-force, and was dismissed after the plaintiff’s deposition and one hearing in exchange for a nuisance value payment.