On 03/18/2016 BRIAN DREYFUSS filed a Contract - Other Contract lawsuit against RIAN JOHNSON. This case was filed in Los Angeles County Superior Courts, Stanley Mosk Courthouse located in Los Angeles, California. The Judge overseeing this case is MICHAEL P. LINFIELD. The case status is Disposed - Judgment Entered.
Disposed - Judgment Entered
Los Angeles County Superior Courts
Stanley Mosk Courthouse
Los Angeles, California
MICHAEL P. LINFIELD
FEATURED ARTISTS AGENCY INC. A CALIFORNIA CORPORATION
DOES 1 THROUGH 25
CREATIVE ARTISTS AGENCY
LAW OFFICE OF RANDY R. MERRITT
MERRITT RANDY R.
GOLDEN JAMES M.
MOSS AARON J.
11/5/2020: Minute Order - MINUTE ORDER (STATUS CONFERENCE /TRIAL SETTING CONFERENCE)
10/22/2020: Status Report - STATUS REPORT JOINT STATUS REPORT
10/22/2020: Notice Re: Continuance of Hearing and Order
10/13/2020: Stipulation and Order - STIPULATION AND ORDER LEAVE TO FILE SECOND AMENDED COMPLAINT
7/15/2020: Case Management Statement
7/15/2020: Status Report
7/22/2020: Minute Order - MINUTE ORDER (STATUS CONFERENCE /TRIAL SETTING CONFERENCE)
6/25/2019: Status Report
5/2/2016: FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT FOR: 1. BREACH OF IMPLIED CONTRACT 2. BREACH OF IMPLIED DUTY OF GOOD FAITH AND FAIR DEALING, ETC
1/7/2021: Judgment - JUDGMENT PROPOSED JUDGMENT OF DISMISSAL AFTER SUSTAINING OF DEMURRER TO SECOND AMENDED COMPLAINT WITHOUT LEAVE TO AMEND
12/21/2020: Notice of Ruling - NOTICE OF RULING ON DEMURRER TO SECOND AMENDED COMPLAINT
12/9/2020: Reply - REPLY IN SUPPORT OF DEMURRER TO PLAINTIFFS SECOND AMENDED COMPLAINT
12/30/2019: Status Report - STATUS REPORT JOINT STATUS REPORT
1/7/2019: Minute Order - Minute Order (Status Conference; Status Conference /Trial Setting Conference)
6/22/2016: ORDER RE JOINT STIPULATION TO STAY ACTION PENDING THE DETERMINATION OF CONTROVERSY BY LABOR COMMISSIONER
6/27/2016: NOTICE OF ENTRY OF ORDER RE JOINT STIPULATION TO STAY ACTION PENDING THE DETERMINATION OF CONTROVERSY BY LABOR COMMISSIONER
12/16/2016: Minute Order -
5/19/2017: Minute Order -
Docketat 08:30 AM in Department 34; Trial Setting Conference - Not Held - Continued - Court's MotionRead MoreRead Less
DocketMinute Order ( (Trial Setting Conference)); Filed by ClerkRead MoreRead Less
DocketSubstitution of Attorney; Filed by Featured Artists Agency, Inc., a California Corporation (Plaintiff)Read MoreRead Less
DocketSubstitution of Attorney; Filed by Featured Artists Agency, Inc., a California Corporation (Plaintiff); Brian Dreyfuss (Plaintiff)Read MoreRead Less
DocketNotice (OF ENTRY OF JUDGMENT OR ORDER); Filed by Rian Johnson (Defendant); Ram Bergman (Defendant)Read MoreRead Less
DocketJudgment (PROPOSED JUDGMENT OF DISMISSAL AFTER SUSTAINING OF DEMURRER TO SECOND AMENDED COMPLAINT WITHOUT LEAVE TO AMEND); Filed by Rian Johnson (Defendant); Ram Bergman (Defendant)Read MoreRead Less
DocketNotice of Ruling (ON DEMURRER TO SECOND AMENDED COMPLAINT); Filed by Rian Johnson (Defendant); Ram Bergman (Defendant)Read MoreRead Less
Docketat 08:30 AM in Department 34; Hearing on Demurrer - without Motion to StrikeRead MoreRead Less
Docketat 08:30 AM in Department 34; Hearing on Demurrer - without Motion to Strike - HeldRead MoreRead Less
DocketMinute Order ( (Hearing on Demurrer - without Motion to Strike)); Filed by ClerkRead MoreRead Less
DocketEx-Parte Application; Filed by Defendant/RespondentRead MoreRead Less
DocketOrder Appointing Court Approved Reporter as Official Reporter Pro Tempore; Filed by Defendant/RespondentRead MoreRead Less
DocketEXPARTE APPLICATION TO STAY PROCEEDINGS PENDING DETERMINATION OF LABOR COMMISSIONER, OR, IN THE ALTERNATIVE, FOR AN ORDER SHORTENING TIME ON DEFENDANTS MOTION TO STAY; DECLARATIONS OF AARON J. MOSS AND DANIEL G. STONE IN SUPPORTRead MoreRead Less
DocketFirst Amended Complaint; Filed by Plaintiff/PetitionerRead MoreRead Less
DocketFIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT FOR: 1. BREACH OF IMPLIED CONTRACT 2. BREACH OF IMPLIED DUTY OF GOOD FAITH AND FAIR DEALING, ETCRead MoreRead Less
DocketNotice of Case Management Conference; Filed by ClerkRead MoreRead Less
DocketNOTICE OF CASE MANAGEMENT CONFERENCERead MoreRead Less
DocketComplaint; Filed by Brian Dreyfuss (Plaintiff)Read MoreRead Less
DocketCOMPLAINT FOR: 1. BREACH OF IMPLIED CONTRACT; ETCRead MoreRead Less
DocketSUMMONSRead MoreRead Less
Case Number: BC614146 Hearing Date: December 16, 2020 Dept: 34
SUBJECT: Demurrer to SAC
Moving Party: Defendants Rian Johnson and Ram Bergman
Resp. Party: Plaintiffs Brian Dreyfuss and Featured Artist Agency, Inc.
Defendants’ demurrer is SUSTAINED without leave to amend.
Plaintiffs Brian Dreyfuss, a talent agent, and Feature Artists Agency, a licensed talent agency, bring this action seeking a 10% commission from Defendant Rian Johnson, an artist, in connection with Defendant Johnson’s work on the Star Wars franchise. Plaintiffs bring this action against Defendant Ram Bergman, based on allegations that Defendant Bergman interfered with Defendant Johnson’s contract with Plaintiffs.
On March 18, 2016, Plaintiff Brian Dreyfuss commenced this action against Defendants Rian Johnson and Ram Bergman and on May 2, 2016, Plaintiffs Brian Dreyfuss and Featured Artist Agency, Inc. filed a first amended complaint for (1) breach of implied contract; (2) breach of implied duty of good faith and fair dealing; (3) intentional interference with contractual relationship; (4) declaratory relief; and (5) accounting.
On June 22, 2016, pursuant to the parties’ stipulation, the Court ordered the proceeding stayed in its entirety pending the Labor Commissioner’s determination of Case No. TAC 43015 (filed April 19, 2016 before the California Division of Labor Standards Enforcement, Department of Industrial Relations), as well as any related claims, counterclaims, and petitions that may be filed before the Labor Commissioner relating to this matter.
On February 10, 2020, the Court found that the following cases, BC614146 and 19STCV38555, are related, and designated BC614146 as the lead case.
On March 3, 2020, Defendants filed a notice of Labor Commissioner’s determination of controversy, which granted in part and denied in part the petition filed by Defendant Rian Johnson and finding that Mr. Johnson does not owe commissions to Plaintiffs for compensation he has or will receive in connection with his work on “Star Wars: Episode VIII.”
On October 14, 2020, pursuant to the parties’ stipulation, the Court granted Plaintiffs leave to file a second amended complaint (“SAC”).
On October 14, 2020, Plaintiffs Brian Dreyfuss and Featured Artists Agency filed the SAC against Defendants Rian Johnson and Ram Bergman for (1) breach of implied contract; (2) breach of implied duty of good faith and fair dealing; (3) intentional interference with contractual relationship; (4) declaratory relief; and (5) accounting.
On November 13, 2020, Defendants filed the instant demurrer to the SAC, on the grounds that (1) the Court has no jurisdiction of the subject of each cause of action; (2) there is another action pending between the same parties on the same cause of action; and (3) the SAC does not state facts sufficient to constitute causes of action.
A. Requests for Judicial Notice
1. Defendants’ Request for Judicial Notice
Defendants request that the Court take judicial notice of the following documents:
· Exhibit 1: Complaint filed in this action on March 18, 2016;
· Exhibit 2: Petition to Determine Controversy filed by Defendant Rian Johnson before the Labor Commissioner on April 19, 2016;
· Exhibit 3: First Amended Complaint filed in this action on May 3, 2016;
· Exhibit 4: Joint Stipulation to Stay Proceedings, filed in this action on June 15, 2016;
· Exhibit 5: Court’s Order Staying Proceedings, dated June 22, 2016;
· Exhibit 6: FAA’s Petition to Determine Controversy, filed before the Labor Commissioner on November 8, 2018;
· Exhibit 7: Labor Commissioner’s Determination of Controversy, dated February 12, 2020;
· Exhibit 8: Second Amended Complaint filed in this action on October 14, 2020.
The Court DENIES Defendants’ request for judicial notice as to Exhibits 1, 3, 4, 5, and 8 as superfluous. Any party that wishes to draw the Court’s attention to a matter filed in this action may simply cite directly to the document by execution and filing date. (See Cal. Rules of Court, rule 3.1110(d).
The Court GRANTS Defendants’ request for judicial notice as to Exhibits 2, 6, and 7. (Evid. Code, § 452, subds. (c), (d).)
2. Plaintiffs’ Request for Judicial Notice
Plaintiffs request that the Court take judicial notice of the following document:
· Exhibit A: Post Hearing Brief submitted by Defendant Rian Johnson filed on July 5, 2017, after the Evidentiary Hearing before the California Labor Commissioner that took place on May 8-9, 2017.
The Court GRANTS Plaintiffs’ request for judicial notice. (Evid. Code, § 452, subds. (c), (d).)
B. Legal Standard
A demurrer is a pleading used to test the legal sufficiency of other pleadings. It raises issues of law, not fact, regarding the form or content of the opposing party’s pleading. It is not the function of the demurrer to challenge the truthfulness of the complaint; and for purpose of the ruling on the demurrer, all facts pleaded in the complaint are assumed to be true, however improbable they may be. (Code Civ. Proc., §§422.10, 589.)
A demurrer can be used only to challenge defects that appear on the face of the pleading under attack; or from matters outside the pleading that are judicially noticeable. (Blank v. Kirwan (1985) 39 Cal.3d 311.) No other extrinsic evidence can be considered (i.e., no “speaking demurrers”). A demurrer is brought under Code of Civil Procedure section 430.10 (grounds), section 430.30 (as to any matter on its face or from which judicial notice may be taken), and section 430.50(a) (can be taken to the entire complaint or any cause of action within).
A demurrer may be brought under Code of Civil Procedure section 430.10, subdivision (e) if insufficient facts are stated to support the cause of action asserted.
The statute of limitations is not an enumerated ground for demurrer; rather, it is an argument that may be advanced in support of a demurrer on the ground of failure to state sufficient facts. (See E-Fab, Inc. v. Accountants, Inc. Services (2007) 153 Cal.App.4th 1308, 1315; see also ABF Capital Corp. v. Berglass (2005) 130 Cal.App.4th 825, 833.)
“The defense of statute of limitations may be asserted by general demurrer if the complaint shows on its face that the statute bars the action. There is an important qualification, however: In order for the bar of the statute of limitations to be raised by demurrer, the defect must clearly and affirmatively appear on the face of the complaint; it is not enough that the complaint shows merely that the action may be barred.” (E-Fab, Inc. v. Accountants, Inc. Servs. (2007) 153 Cal.App.4th 1308, 1315-1316, citations and internal quotations omitted.) A defendant challenging a pleading based on the statute of limitations must demonstrate (1) which statute of limitations applies and (2) when the cause of action accrued. (Id. at p. 1316.)
Leave to amend should not be granted unless plaintiff can establish that facts exist sufficient to state a cause of action. (Community Assisting Recovery, Inc. v. Aegis Security Ins. Co. (2001) 92 Cal. App. 4th 886, 895.)
1. TAA’s One-Year Statute of Limitation
Labor Code section 1700.44, subdivision (c) provides the statute of limitations for the Talent Agencies Act, which states:
“No action or proceeding shall be brought pursuant to this chapter with respect to any violation which is alleged to have occurred more than one year prior to commencement of the action or proceeding.”
“The Labor Commissioner is given exclusive original jurisdiction over controversies colorably arising under the TAA, which must be brought within one year.” (Blanks v. Seyfarth Shaw LLP (2009) 171 Cal.App.4th 336, 360; see also Lab. Code, § 1700.44.) “[T]he Legislature intended to allow an artist to toll the statute of limitations only by filing an ‘action’ or ‘proceeding’ before the Labor Commissioner; the filing of an action or proceeding in superior court will not toll the statute of limitations.” (Greenfield v. Superior Court (2003) 106 Cal.App.4th 743, 748 (Greenfield).)
In Greenfield, the plaintiff, celebrity trainer Billy Banks, commenced a superior court action on November 4, 1999 alleging that his former accountant, Jeffrey Greenfield, violated the TAA. (Id. at pp. 745-746.) Although the plaintiff filed a complaint in superior court on November 4, 1999, the plaintiff’s claim under the TAA accrued as of August 2, 1999, and the plaintiff did not file a petition before the Labor Commissioner until August 28, 2000, which was 26 days after the TAA’s one-year statute of limitations expired. (Ibid.) The Greenfield court held that the plaintiff’s claim was untimely and ordered its dismissal. (Id. at p. 753.) The Greenfield court made it clear that “in order to toll the statute of limitations in matters involving the Talent Agencies Act, one must file the action or proceeding before the Labor Commissioner within one year of the alleged violation of the Act.” (Id. at p. 745.)
Defendants argue that all of Plaintiffs’ claims in the SAC are time-barred by the Talent Agencies Act’s (“TAA”) one-year statute of limitations. (Demurrer, p. 4:17.) Defendants assert that Plaintiff Dreyfuss filed a complaint alleging that Johnson failed to pay commissions with respect to his work on Star Wars on March 18, 2016. (Id. at p. 5:8-9.) Plaintiffs filed their FAC on May 3, 2016, adding FAA as a plaintiff. (Id. at p. 5:9-10.) However, FAA did not file a Petition before the Labor Commissioner until November 8, 2018, more than two and one half years after Plaintiffs filed their FAC. (Id. at p. 5:10-12.) Therefore, Defendants maintain that all of Plaintiffs’ claims with respect to Johnson’s work on Star Wars, including all of the claims in the SAC, are time barred on their face.
In opposition, Plaintiffs argue that the Court should decline Defendants’ invitation to bar Plaintiff’s claims as untimely because “Defendants have been fully aware of Plaintiffs’ substantive allegations and the source for evidence relevant to those allegations – most of which lies within their possession, custody or control.” (Opp. MPA, p. 1:18-21.) Plaintiffs maintain that applying the statutory time bar in this case “would be contrary to the equitable principle that a ‘plaintiff should not be barred by a statute of limitations unless the defendant would be unfairly prejudiced if the plaintiff were allowed to proceed’ ” because “Defendants would suffer no prejudice, unfair or otherwise.” (Id. at pp. 1:24-2:2, citing Collier v. City of Pasadena (1983) 142 Cal.App.3d 917, 923.) Plaintiffs also argue that “Defendants’ argument that the statute of limitation also precludes Plaintiffs’ claim against Bergman for intentional interference with a contractual relationship (i.e., the contractual relationship between Johnson and FAA)” is unfounded because their “claim against Bergman is not subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the Talent Agencies Act.” (Id. at p. 2:3-8.)
The Court finds that Plaintiffs’ claims against Defendants are affirmatively barred by the one-year statute of limitations of the TAA.
Plaintiff Brian Dreyfuss commenced this action on March 18, 2016 and filed the FAC on May 3, 2016, adding Plaintiff FAA to the action. However, Plaintiff FAA filed the Labor Commissioner petition seeking affirmative relief against Defendants based on the same claims in this action on November 8, 2018 (RJN, Ex. 6; Stone Decl., ¶ 8, Ex. 6), which is more than a year after the FAC was filed. The Court also notes that there have been no allegations or facts judicially noticed that demonstrate that Plaintiff Dreyfuss filed a petition before the Labor Commissioner.
The Court declines Plaintiff’s request to apply equitable principles to overrule the Statute of Limitations stated in the TAA. The case cited by Plaintiff, Collier v. City of Pasadena (1983) 142 Cal.App.3d 917 held that the filing of a workers' compensation claim equitably tolled the statute of limitations for filing a disability pension claim arising out of the same disabling injury. However, Plaintiff has not cited any cases to the Court that equitable tolling has been applied to overrule the one-year Statute of Limitations in the TAA. Greenfield and the other cases interpreting the TAA indicate that Statute of Limitations is not subject to equitable tolling.
During oral argument, Plaintiff’s counsel argued that it is within the discretion of the Court to equitably toll the Statute of Limitations. Even if the Court accepted this argument, the Court would decline to exercise its discretion to allow equitable tolling in this matter.
Plaintiff’s single claim against Defendant Bergman is for intentional interference with contractual relations, which arises out of FAA’s contract with Defendant Johnson. (SAC, ¶¶81-90.) Because the TAA’s one-year statute of limitations period extends to any claim that “colorably aris[es] under the TAA” (Banks, supra, 171 Cal.App.4th at p. 360), Plaintiffs’ claim against Defendant Bergman that arises out of the FAA contract is also barred by the TAA’s one-year statute of limitations.
Plaintiffs have failed to meet their burden to show the Court that their pleading can be amended successfully to allege that their claims are not barred by the TAA’s statute of limitations. (See Goodman, supra, 18 Cal.3d at p. 348.)
The Court SUSTAINS the demurrer without leave to amend.
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