July 09, 2005
You snooze, you lose
It's one of those sad-but-true things, but the whole point of a statute of limitations is to cut off meritorious claims. It's also true that even the best lawyer can't help a client who sits on his rights.
Gilberto Santa Rosa (bio here) is a successful salsa singer in Puerto Rico, known as the "Gentleman of Salsa." When he was just starting out he made a deal with a local outfit, Combo Records, to record and to produce his music. The result was four albums, which did well enough that he was subsequently able to jump to CBS/Sony, where he would ultimately go platinum. Combo gave Santa Rosa some advance payments, under the deals, but no royalties apparently ever came. Santa Rosa said that he asked about them frequently over the years but never got any response. He finally sued for, among other things, breach of contract and unjust enrichment. Combo moved to dismiss.
The trouble with Santa Rosa's claim is that it was unclear when, or even if, a written contract had been signed. There was evidence that it was signed in 1978, 1984, 1986 -- or maybe never. This left the contract claim dead in the water, since under any theory of when the contract had been formed and when it had been breached, the date was long past. The court noted that it was possible that some portion of Santa Rosa's unjust enrichment claim might not be time barred, but Santa Rosa's own allegations were so vague that he would be unable to prove that. Case dismissed.
Santa Rosa v. Combo Records, 2005 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 13026 (D.P.R. June 28, 2005).
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