Procedural PostureApril 23, 2021
Plaintiff author appealed from a judgment notwithstanding the verdict from the Superior Court of Los Angeles County (California), in favor of defendants, studio, actor, and script writer, in plaintiff’s action for plagiarism, quasi-contract, breach of an implied-in-fact contract, and breach of a fiduciary or confidential relationship after defendants allegedly used plaintiff’s ideas to create their motion picture. The California business law lawyers were sought as expert witnesses during trial.
The court held that the trial court was correct in granting judgment to defendants, studio, actor, and script writer, notwithstanding the jury’s verdict that defendants used plaintiff author’s ideas in their film and that an implied-in-fact contract existed between plaintiff and defendants. The independent effort of defendants, actor and script writer, in developing the challenged script provided defendant studio with a complete defense against the alleged contractual obligation. The defense was established because the inference of access and use was rebutted. Defendants produced evidence that plaintiff’s work was never submitted to defendant studio, nor was there any contact between the screenplay writers and the people alleged to have possessed plaintiff’s treatment, so neither access nor use existed. Because access and use were essential to plaintiff’s recovery, as a matter of law, there was no contractual obligation for the trial court to enforce, and no substantial evidence to support the jury verdict.
The court affirmed the order granting judgment notwithstanding the verdict to defendants, studio, actor, and script writer, because defendants’ script was an independent effort and there was no evidence to support the jury’s findings that defendants used plaintiff author’s ideas.
In action brought by appellant physician against respondent insurer after appellant was removed from respondent’s preferred provider lists, respondent petitioned for review of judgment of the Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District, Division One (California), which reversed trial court’s decision that appellant’s complaint failed to allege claim for violation of the common law right to fair procedure.
After removal from respondent insurance company’s preferred provider lists, appellant physician sued respondent. Citing the common law right to fair procedure, appellant alleged he should have been given reasonable notice and an opportunity to be heard before his removal. Trial court granted respondent’s motion for summary judgment, but appellate court reversed, disagreeing with trial court that appellant’s complaint failed to allege a claim for violation of the common law right to fair procedure. The supreme court affirmed appellate court’s decision, concluding that appellant alleged that among the adverse effects of removal from respondent’s preferred provider lists were rejection by physician groups which were dependent upon credentialing by respondent and devastation of appellant’s practice. Proof of appellant’s allegations could establish that, in terminating a physician’s preferred provider status, respondent wielded power so substantial as to significantly impair an ordinary, competent physician’s ability to practice medicine or a medical specialty in a particular geographic area, thereby affecting an important, substantial economic interest.
Judgment affirmed; “without cause” termination clause in agreement between respondent and appellant for appellant’s inclusion on respondent’s preferred provider lists was unenforceable to the extent it purported to limit an otherwise existing right to fair procedure under the common law.