March 26, 2010
NY Judge Essentially Holds that Unmarried Partners Cannot Expressly or Implicitly Contract for Marriage Rights
Fabien Baron and his unmarried partner, Malin Ericson, broke up. After their separation, she essentially sued him for equitable distribution (by way of constructive trust) and child custody and support. Ericson’s claim was premised on Baron’s alleged statement that “what’s mine is your’s.” He also allegedly said that he would “always take care of her,” and “always be there for her,” and would “treat their separation as if [they] ‘had been legally married.’”
A New York trial court (Supreme Court, New York County [Gesmer, J]) dismissed the claims based on these (and other) statements. “While not entirely unsympathetic to the circumstances described by Ericson,” the court reasoned that general remarks of this kind, while they may in some circumstances crease a moral obligation, are insufficient to create a binding oral contract. In short, the court reasoned that Ericson’s “affidavit in opposition to the motion to dismiss does nothing to supplement the missing element of promise in her Complaint. Indeed, she admits in her affidavit that [Baron] ‘never specifically promised . . . an ownership interest or a percentage interest in the assets he was acquiring while [they] cohabited.’”
The court further held that, “even if [Baron] had made an explicit promise that, upon separation, she would be entitled to ‘equitable distribution’ of their assets, it would be unenforceable, as it would be contrary to the long-standing law and policy in New York that unmarried partners are not entitled to the same property and financial rights upon termination of the relationship as married people.”
Ericson v. Baron, 350065/09 (Sup. Ct. N.Y. County Mar. 23, 2010)
[Meredith R. Miller]
March 25, 2010
Ian Roderick Macneil, 1929-2010
Contracts Professors around the world are mourning the loss of Ian Macneil, known to the world as 46th Chief of the Macneil clan and the 26th Macneil of Barra, and known to contracts professors as the father of relational contracts theory. Obituaries can be found in the Times of London here and in the Telegraph here.
Wikipedia has a lengthy entry here.
Reading of Professor Macneil and hearing the remembrances of those who knew him, one gains an appreciation of what it means to stand on the shoulders of giants.
March 24, 2010
Weekly Top Ten from the Social Science Research Network
March 23, 2010
University of South Florida Football Coach Sues for Breach
It seems there have been a lot of cases recently involving college sports coaches who claim that they were terminated without cause and are entitled to damages. In January, we reported on a suit involving Texas Tech football coach, Mike Leach. About that, there have been some very interesting developments, reported on ESPN. Last week, the University of South Florida Oracle reported that former USF football coach Jim Leavitt is bringing suit alleging wrongful termination.
The University fired Leavitt in January for cause on the ground that he had grabbed a player by the throat and slapped him. Leavitt's suit alleges that the University acted based on hearsay and that its investigation of the incident was not thorough. His suit alleges that he has therefore been terminated without cause and is entitled to $7 million in additional payments. The Oracle story is a bit unclear, but it looks like Leavitt is also arguing In the alternative that, even if his termination for cause was appropriate, he was still entitled to 1/12 of his remaining salary rather than the 1/12 of his annual salary that the University already paid. The difference is over $300,000.
The lawsuit also demands access to public records, disclosure of which Leavitt maintains is required under Florida law.
March 22, 2010
Lady Gaga and Former Producer Trade Breach of Contract Suits
A Google search turned up over 1000 stories about the law suits involving Lady Gaga (pictured) and her former producer and ex-lover, Rob Fusari. None that I could find linked to any court filings, but at least Christopher John Farley of the Wall Street Journal's blog has summarized Fusari's suit Farley provides details that are annoyingly absent from most of the other 1000.
According to Farley, Fusari filed suit last Wednesday against two LLC's controlled by Lady Gaga (Ms. Gaga?). The suit alleges both breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duties. But that doesn't get your lawsuit 1000 Google hits. It also alleges a romance with the performer/songwriter and contends that Mr. Fusari was cut out of his rightful share of Lady Gaga's profits when the relationship soured. He seeks $5 million (the New York Times puts the damages sought at $30.5 million here) and perhaps a remedy for a broken heart. Other articles suggest that one of Fusari's claims is that he was responsible for coming up with Lady Gaga's stage name (her real name is Stefani Germanotta). Farley reveals that it was actually Mr. Fusari's cell phone that came up with the handle. Business Week provides the further detail that Mr. Fusari claims a contractual entitlement to 20% of the Lady Gaga's earnings from her early recordings.
Business Week also reports on Lady Gaga's response, which came on Thursday in the form of her own lawsuit (apparently not just counterclaims). Both suits were filed in New York's Supreme Court. Lady Gaga's suit alleges that any agreement with Fusari was illegal because he was not a licensed employment agent. Bloomberg.com provides the further detail that Lady Gaga alleges that her agreement with Fusari is "void and unenforceable" apparently because it runs afoul of laws in New York and New Jersey intended to "protect employees from predatory and financially abusive practices."
Both Bloomberg.com and Business Week provide the captions for the cases. The original suit is styled Rob Fusari v. Mermaid Music LLC, 6501799/2010. The response is styled Stefani Joanne Germanotta v. Rob Fusari, 650183/2010.