With the avalanche of news in our modern lives, even non-lawyers are overwhelmed with information about big trial verdicts. If you are a Dodgers fan, you likely heard about the contentious divorce of former owner, Frank McCourt who settled with his now ex-wife for a cool $130 million plus assets. And many watched the trial brought by singer Michael Jackson's family against his concert promoter AEG Live for wrongful death, which resulted in a defense verdict for AEG. However, there were some extraordinary trial verdicts that didn't attract the media's attention and yet will have a huge impact on future litigation. Here are just a sampling of the top verdicts in California from 2013 that you should have heard about but didn't.
Asam v. Ortiz (Santa Clarita Superior Court Case No. PC051705)
In 2009, Michael Asam and his family, including three children were traveling to Oregon when their SUV left the highway and collided with a parked semi-trailer. Michael, his wife, and his oldest child perished in the catastrophic accident. At trial it was determined the driver of the semi-trailer did not have any lights on and should have parked off the highway, as the area he parked was reserved for emergencies. Though the jury found both Asam and the truck driver negligent, the jury still awarded $150 million dollars in damages to Asam's remaining family. This was a stunning award in light of the finding of comparative negligence. As of the writing of this article, the verdict had been vacated as excessive and it appears a new trial will be ordered.
Antonick v. Electronic Arts ("EA")(U.S. District Ct., Northern Dist. of California No. 11-1543)
Web Developer, Robin Antonick brought suit against his former employer, EA for failing to compensate him for use of his source code in the popular video game, John Madden football. Antonick had toiled for years designing the first Madden game and then left EA. It was not until much later Antonick realized EA was still using his code without paying him royalties. The federal jury awarded Antonick $3.6 million to compensate him for each of the annual editions of the game up to 1996. It was an interesting verdict in light of the issues with delay in Antonick bringing his lawsuit. Since the verdict, the Court has reversed the judgment in favor of EA and there is a possibility of appeal by Antonick.
Name.space. Inc. v. Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers ("ICANN")(U.S. District Ct., Central Dist. of California No. 12-8676)
Name.space sued ICANN, a non-profit that oversees the issuances of domain names for websites. Name.space alleged ICANN was abusing its monopoly to constrain competition in new domains. In a bench trial, the U.S. District judge rejected Name.space's complaint. The Court held that ICANN's monopoly was given to it by the U.S. government and not through ICANN's "willful acquisition" of the monopoly.