LTL obtains jury verdict on sexual harassment claim for client united resources information

May 9, 2022 – A Los Angeles County Superior Court jury rejected the sexual harassment and retaliation claims of a former employee of United Resources Information (“URI”) against the company and his former URI supervisor. Ted Lin was an Associate Creative Director for URI, a Los Angeles-based advertising agency. Lin alleged that his supervisor repeatedly touched him against his wishes, asked questions about he and his wife’s activities, and tried to discuss masturbation with him on one occasion. Lin claimed that when he complained about his supervisor’s behavior to URI’s President, its Human Resources Manager and others, rather than investigate his allegations, URI and the supervisor ultimately took him off of high-profile projects in retaliation for his claims leading to his forced resignation. He sought nearly $2.5 million in damages, not including punitive damages.

For its part, URI defended that no unwelcome touching or inappropriate conversations had occurred, as evidenced by Lin’s own contemporaneous Facebook chat messages with a close co-worker friend. Those messages revealed that Lin’s true grievances with his supervisor were over her managerial style and creative direction rather than any inappropriate sexual behavior to which there was not a single reference during that six-month period.

The jury’s verdict followed a day of deliberations. The trial included expert witness testimony produced by Plaintiff that the reason why he had failed to disclose some of the most salacious details of his supervisor’s purported conduct prior to trial was because of his repressed memory arising from the alleged abuse. “We couldn’t be happier for URI and Ms. Park who have had their reputations dragged through the mud for four years by these outrageously false claims,” said lead trial counsel David Ammons who tried the case with Senior Counsel Kevin Kelly. “I remain hopeful that those who are truly victims of workplace sexual harassment will be heard in the future,” said Ammons.

LTL Obtains Dismissal: Use of Fulfillment by Amazon is Insufficient to Establish Patent Venue Under 28 U.S.C. § 1400(b)

On April 6, 2022, the Central District of California dismissed a patent infringement suit brought by a California company Laltitude, LLC against an Ohio company Dreambuilder Toy, LLC. The suit accused Dreambuilder of infringing two of Latitude’s patents along with a state law claim for unfair competition.

LTL filed a motion to dismiss that the Central District is not the proper venue. The patent venue statute permits “[a]ny civil action for patent infringement may be brought in the judicial district where the defendant resides, or where the defendant has committed acts of infringement and has a regular and established place of business.” 28 U.S.C. § 1400(b). “[T]here are three general requirements to establishing that the defendant has a regular and established place of business: ‘(1) there must be a physical place in the district; (2) it must be a regular and established place of business; and (3) it must be the place of the defendant.’” In re Google, 949 F.3d 1338, 1343 (Fed. Cir. 2020) (quoting In re Cray, 871 F.3d 1355, 1360 (Fed. Cir. 2017)).

There was no dispute that Dreambuilder does not reside in the Central District. Rather, Laltitude argued that the venue requirements were satisfied because of Dreambuilder’s relationship with Amazon and Amazon’s fulfillment centers in the district, specifically Dreambuilder’s use of Fulfillment by Amazon to store and ship its products meant that Dreambuilder had a regular and established place of business in the district.

In rejecting Laltitude’s argument, the Court reiterated against a broad reading of the patent venue statute. The Court found that while leased shelf space or rack space can serve as a regular and established place of business, Laltitude’s argument that Dreambuilder “leased shelf spaces in Amazon’s warehouse” that it “effectively possesses or controls” failed to constitute a “physical place in the district.” The Court focused on Amazon’s standard contract, which provides that Dreambuilder “has no right to control, inspect, or possess the space.” (emphasis in original).

“This decision represents a win for patent defendants that use online marketplaces like Amazon and helps prevent abuse by plaintiffs improperly attempting to expand the reach of the patent venue statute,” said LTL’s lead partner, Heather Auyang, representing Dreambuilder. “This case should have never been filed in the Central District and will hopefully deter plaintiffs from making similar arguments.”

Please contact Heather Auyang (heather.auyang@ltlattorneys.com) if you would like a copy of the decision. Senior Counsel Dat Nguyen assisted in Dreambuilder’s defense.

LTL Welcomes Partner Kate Cassidy

LTL Attorneys LLP (LTL) is pleased to announce that Kate Cassidy has joined the firm as a partner in its New York City office. During her 18-year career as a trial lawyer, Kate has focused on patent litigation and high stakes commercial litigation. She has represented companies ranging from startups through Fortune 100 companies from a variety of industries in courts throughout the country and in international and domestic arbitrations.

Before joining LTL, Kate practiced in the New York offices of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, LLP and Nixon Peabody LLP and as a foreign attorney in the Washington DC office of Willkie Farr & Gallagher LLP.

“Kate’s addition to the firm reflects LTL’s strategic growth in New York,” said Managing Partner David Ammons. “Kate’s extensive experience will also further strengthen our patent and commercial litigation team, as we make inroads in the New York City market in these practice areas.”

LTL Prevails In $150 Million Decade-Long International Dispute

On November 8, 2021, the California Court of Appeal sided with LTL Attorneys’ client DAS Corporation, headquartered in Korea, against Optional Capital, Inc., another Korean company, in the parties’ decade-long dispute over stolen funds. The result is a complete victory for LTL’s client in the litigation.

Optional sued DAS in 2011, claiming that funds DAS had received from a Swiss bank account maintained by a third-party fraudster belonged to Optional. The fraudster had stolen funds from DAS and Optional, but DAS was the first to collect on its debt. Unable to enforce its judgment against the fraudster, Optional sued DAS for conversion, fraudulent transfer, and receipt of stolen property, seeking over $150 million—the $12.6 million DAS received, an additional $25 million allegedly owed to Optional by the fraudster (claimed to be DAS’s co-conspirator), treble damages, punitive damages, and attorneys’ fees.

In a three-week 2019 trial conducted by LTL Partners Joe Tuffaha and Prashanth Chennakesavan, with assistance from associates David Crane and Kevin Kelly, a jury rejected most of Optional’s claims, but awarded Optional $2 million after finding that DAS knowingly received stolen funds. Both sides appealed. A unanimous panel agreed with LTL, reversed the judgment, and rejected Optional’s cross-appeal.

“We couldn’t be more gratified with the Court of Appeal’s decision. This was truly a slugfest in the trial court, and while we were disappointed that the jury did not find in DAS’ favor on all of the claims, we were confident that the Court of Appeal would correct that mistake” said LTL Managing Partner David Ammons. “Joe and Prashanth, and really the entire LTL team did an outstanding job in both the trial court and the court of appeal, and we could not be prouder to continue our unbeaten streak in the state and federal courts of appeal over the last four years,” said Ammons.

LTL Obtains $1.4 Million Jury Verdict for Client MSC.Software Corporation

On Friday, September 17, 2021, a Los Angeles jury awarded LTL client MSC.Software Corporation (“MSC”) $1.4 million in damages in MSC’s contract dispute with former client Heroux-Devtek, Inc. (“HDI”).

The three-day trial involved MSC’s claim that HDI, a Canadian aerospace supplier, breached the parties’ agreement when it did not destroy and continued to use software which it contractually committed to destroy. HDI’s continued use of the software permitted it to continue engineering operations for years when one of its servers became unavailable. HDI admitted that it breached the parties’ contract, but argued that MSC had suffered no damages because it never used more software than the contract permitted, and also argued that the suit was untimely. The eight-person federal jury rejected these defenses awarding MSC the full amount of its requested damages consisting of unpaid software license fees.

“We are grateful that the jurors were able to sift through the misdirection that was thrown them at trial and award compensation to MSC for the products and services HDI used for years without paying for them,” said lead trial counsel David Ammons.

LTL Managing Partner joins California Minority Counsel Program Board

LTL Managing Partner David Ammons has joined the Board of Directors of the California Minority Counsel Program (“CMCP”). Since 1989, CMCP has been dedicated to eliminating the disparity between the percentage of minorities in California’s population and the legal profession. Through its many programs, CMCP has given minority attorneys direct access to corporate decision-makers, assisted corporations and law firms in meeting their commitments to increasing the number of diverse attorneys in their ranks, and assisting public and private entities in increasing their minority outside spend. “LTL Attorneys has been a proud sponsor of many CMCP programs over the years, and I look forward to this leadership role in ensuring that the legal profession accurately reflects the diverse state that it serves.”

LTL Obtains Dismissal of Whistleblower Retaliation Lawsuit for Client EMPTECH

On June 24, 2020, the Los Angeles Superior Court dismissed an employment discrimination and retaliation suit brought by a former employee of LTL client EMPTECH.  The suit alleged that following nearly a decade of exceptional performance, Plaintiff, the former Director of Operations, was demoted and ultimately fired for accommodating a subordinate employee’s disability and for championing the employee’s right to accommodation.  Plaintiff claimed that when Emptech’s Chief Executive Officer learned about the accommodation, he became hostile towards both employees.  Plaintiff further alleged that the CEO subsequently reprimanded, suspended and terminated the subordinate employee, and when Plaintiff protested these actions as purportedly illegal, she too was demoted and then fired within a few months of her complaints.

 

Although it was discovered during the litigation that Plaintiff was having an extra-marital affair with the subordinate employee for several years, that the two stole the company’s trade secrets and attempted to steal the company’s clients by starting a competing business, the Company did not assert such as a basis for Plaintiff’s separation.  Rather, it was the CEO’s loss of confidence in Plaintiff’s ability to steer the company as second-in-command after receiving several complaints about her lack of guidance and productivity, a client’s dissatisfaction with her handling of its account, and Plaintiff’s sudden and unexcused absence from a critical meeting with a potential client that justified her dismissal.

 

LTL filed a motion for summary judgment arguing that the case should be dismissed without trial because Plaintiff could not establish that her termination was motivated by anything other than her performance.  In granting the motion, the Court observed that an employee cannot simply show the employer’s decision was wrong, mistaken or unwise and, in this case, Plaintiff’s evidence failed to show the employer’s reasoning was implausible or incredible.

 

“We are pleased that the Court was able to carefully consider our arguments that Plaintiff’s separation from the Company was based on nothing more than her performance,” said LTL’s Managing Partner David Ammons, Emptech’s lead counsel.  “We could not be more excited for EMPTECH, a small business which has had to endure this litigation for more than two years.”

 

Associates Julia Levitskaia and Michael Pearlson assisted in the Company’s defense.

LTL Wins Dismissal of Putative Consumer Class Action Related to Wi-Fi Networking Speeds in the Northern District of California

On November 4, 2019, LTL attained dismissal on behalf of client TP-Link USA Corporation in a putative class action involving alleged false advertising related to Wi-Fi networking speed claims. The case involved two rounds of motion practice. In the initial round, Judge Richard Seeborg granted TP-Link’s motion to dismiss forcing Plaintiffs to amend their complaint to drastically narrow the scope of the putative class, as well as add three additional plaintiffs in an attempt to save their case. In the second round, LTL defeated this narrowed putative class as well. Although the Court granted leave to amend, Plaintiffs declined. Plaintiffs’ counsel are well-known class action attorneys.

The case was originally filed in August 2018 in the Superior Court of San Francisco.  LTL successfully removed the case to federal court and proceeded to cut down the scope of Plaintiffs’ case through motion practice.  We were also able to keep Plaintiffs’ discovery demands to a minimum until dismissal.

This decision is important for all types of consumer products. Essentially the Court found that if a manufacturer advertises according to industry practice, then no reasonable consumer would be misled or harmed unless very specific conditions are met. The Court’s ruling supports businesses’ ability to advertise following industry practices that make sense for the type of product at issue.

The case was handled by LTL partners Prashanth Chennakesavan and Heather Auyang, and associates David Crane and Blake Guererro.  This result further highlights LTL’s successful expertise in defending clients against consumer class actions.

LTL Obtains Affirmance of Judgment for Probate Client in the Second Appellate District

On August 19, 2019, the Second District Court of Appeal affirmed a judgment LTL obtained for client Gong Hua Xi.  The Appellant had initiated a spousal property petition in the Los Angeles Superior Court Probate Department claiming that she became the putative spouse of the decedent four years prior to her legal marriage to him, and sought to use such status to claim community property ownership over real property the decedent held and purchased as separate property two years prior to their marriage.  Representing the decedent’s biological family, LTL obtained a judgment following trial denying the petition on the ground that the Appellant had failed to meet her burden to demonstrate that she was the putative spouse at the time that the property was purchased.  The Court of Appeal unanimously swept aside the Appellant’s arguments that the family lacked standing to object to her petition and that the trial court applied the incorrect legal standard.  LTL Senior Counsel Alex Hu and Associate Blake Guerrero briefed and argued the appeal.