MARK BAUTE’S TRIAL PRACTICE AND CASE SUMMARIES
Jane Doe v. Derrick Rose, Randall Hampton and Ryan Allen: Mr. Baute acted as defense counsel in a two week jury trial in federal court, in which an NBA player and two of his closest friends were accused of raping the plaintiff. The race and gender tensions in the case were exacerbated due to inaccurate and sensationalist nationwide media coverage, heightened by the “me too” movement. The three defendants were African American. The plaintiff was Hispanic. The jury venire of 50 people contained only two African Americans (neither of whom could be on the jury), and 18 prospective jurors were excused for cause due to being the victim (or family members of a victim) of sexual assault. As expected, the juror questionnaire exposed a strong pre-trial bias against celebrity athlete defendants. Due to the rape shield statute, most of the plaintiff’s sexual history was excluded from trial. A jury of six women and two men voted unanimously in favor of all three defendants after only two hours of deliberation, despite the presence of the media in the courtroom.
Accountablecare Service Organization v. NACO, Dr. Andre Berger, and Dr. Alex Foxman: This was a two week jury trial in state court, involving an ownership dispute over the formation of an “accountablecare” medical business. Mr. Baute was defense counsel. The plaintiff’s liability theory was that a series of email exchanges documented a 25% ownership stake in the defendants’ business entity, which created a fiduciary obligation among and between co-owners of the business. The most problematic document in the trial was an email written by both defendants confirming that it was “correct” that the plaintiff owned 25% of the company called “NACO.” The defense involved, among other things, convincing the jury that an email confirming a 25% ownership stake in the name of the plaintiff was just an interim statement of unresolved negotiations, and that the 25% ownership interest was never finally consummated. A jury of twelve people voted unanimously in favor of all three defendants after only 75 minutes of deliberation.
Howard Entertainment, Inc. v. Lisa Kudrow: This was a two week jury trial, in which Mr. Baute represented the plaintiff, Scott Howard, who alleged that Lisa Kudrow breached an oral contract to pay Mr. Howard 10% of her allocated share of the syndication revenue from the well-known television show, “Friends.” The case had been litigated for four years prior to Mr. Baute taking over shortly before trial. Expert witness retentions were made on the eve of trial, and the jury returned a $2,000,000 verdict against Ms. Kudrow, whose cross examination was broadcast by ABC News. The case was tried with experts on both sides on the central issue of whether a 10% “oral commission” agreement was enforceable after a termination of a business manager’s services, with respect to syndication revenues arising both before and after the termination of services.
D.Z. v. Los Angeles Unified School District, et al.: This was a three week trial against Mr. Baute’s client, the Los Angeles Unified School District (“LAUSD”). Unfortunately, several retired school teachers were willing to fly to Los Angeles to testify against LAUSD, at the request of plaintiff’s counsel. Due largely to careful jury selection and the successful cross examination of the plaintiff, the plaintiff’s sister and two hostile former LAUSD teachers, the jury returned a 12-0 verdict in favor of LAUSD.
Bulletin Displays, Inc. v. Regency Outdoor Advertising: This was a four week jury trial involving claims against Mr. Baute’s client, Regency Outdoor Advertising, for alleged racketeering and antitrust violations. Unique challenges to defending this case included an FBI agent testifying against our client, as well as adverse testimony from the former mayor of the City of Lynwood and our client’s former lobbyist, both of whom were convicted of felonies pre-trial and were compelled to testify against our client. The plaintiff sought $60,000,000 in damages against Regency Outdoor Advertising. After the unanimous verdict from all eight jurors in favor of our client, a juror wrote an unsolicited letter to the federal judge stating that she wanted to vote for the plaintiff but that defense counsel’s closing argument was so forceful and persuasive that a “block of five jurors” would not vote for the plaintiff and were able to convince the other three jurors to vote for the defendant. (Opposing counsel: Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan LLP)
Nicollette Sheridan v. Touchstone Television: Mr. Baute was plaintiff’s counsel in a four week jury trial involving labor and employment and contract claims for a retaliatory firing orchestrated by Marc Cherry, with Touchstone/Disney approval, of the actress, Nicollette Sheridan, from the TV show Desperate Housewives. Multiple executives including the President of ABC Network testified that the decision to not renew Ms. Sheridan’s contract was made before Marc Cherry hit Ms. Sheridan. 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. (Opposing counsel: Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp LLP)
Neuburger v. Eber International, Inc.: Plaintiff’s counsel in a direct stockholder/breach of fiduciary duty case by a minority stockholder against the company and the controlling majority stockholder. The six week bench trial resulted in a lengthy opinion and monetary award for Karen Neuburger on two of the three liability claims against the company and the controlling stockholder, Leonard Eber. (Opposing counsel: Epstein Becker & Green, P.C. and Seyfarth Shaw LLP)
Raymond Weil, Inc. v. Charlize Theron: Mr. Baute represented Charlize Theron in a breach of contract and fraud action involving an inadvertent breach of an exclusive endorsement contract for Raymond Weil 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.: Plaintiff’s counsel in a 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. (Opposing counsel: Musick Peeler & Garrett)
Langan v. Caskey & Holzman: Four week bench trial involving 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 LLP)
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 a 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, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison; Meserve, Mumper & Hughes LLP)
Gunderson v. Gruys: Plaintiff’s counsel in a 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 tax planning emanating out of the plaintiff’s decision to consummate a $45,000,000 sale transaction involving the remainder of his business. The jury came back with an 11-1 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. (Opposing 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. BCH 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 for the plaintiff 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 for the plaintiff in a 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)
Muranaka Farm, Inc. v. Arechiga: Lead trial counsel for the plaintiff 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.
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.