SBD/November 5, 2012/Labor and AgentsPrint All
L.A. Federal Court Judge Stephen Wilson found that Priority Sports & Entertainment violated the privacy, as well as a California state law, of former employee and NBA player agent Aaron Mintz when a Priority employee hacked into Mintz' private email account. “Upon review, the Court finds that the undisputed facts show that Priority Sports knowingly and without permission used a computer to wrongfully obtain data, in violation of [California Penal Code] 502,” Wilson wrote in an order issued late Friday afternoon. “That statute imposes liability on whoever ‘knowingly accesses and without permission ... uses any data, computer, computer system, or computer network in order to ... wrongfully control or obtain money, property, or data,’” Wilson wrote. He also found in favor of Mintz on his invasion of privacy claim, but against Mintz on his claims of violation of the Electronic Communications & Privacy Act and the California Data Access & Fraud Act. It is unknown if Priority will appeal the order or if Mintz will seek damages based on the judge’s findings. Attempts to reach Mintz, Priority officials or their attorneys for comment by press time were unsuccessful. In the order, Wilson also dismissed 12 counterclaims Priority had filed against Mintz, who left that firm in March after working there for 11 years, to work for CAA Sports. Wilson denied Mintz’ motion for a court declaration that restrictions in his employment agreement with Priority, that would have prevented him from competing with that firm for two years, were not enforceable under California law. Wilson said in the order that a declaration was not necessary because Priority and its attorneys have stated they do not intend to enforce the restrictions.
EXPLAINING THE DECISION: Wilson explained in a 26-page order why he granted Mintz’ and CAA’s motion for summary judgment to dismiss each of the 12 causes of action in Priority’s counterclaim. Those claims, filed in a lawsuit in April included breach of contract; breach of the covenant of good faith and fair dealing; breach of the duty of loyalty; misappropriation of trade secrets; intentional interference with contractual relations; intentional interference with present and prospective economic advantage and business relationships; conversion; violation of California Penal Code 502; defamation; trade libel; conspiracy; and violation of unfair competition laws. Wilson found there was no evidence to support the claims nor evidence that Priority had suffered any damages or the law did not support the claims as a triable issue. For example, in dismissing Priority’s claim that Mintz breached his duty of loyalty to the firm, Wilson noted that Priority alleged that Mintz prepared to leave while still employed at the firm and CAA agreed that it would pay future litigation expenses. Wilson wrote, “Even if these facts are true, they do not create a triable issue for two reasons. First, under California law, an employee does not breach his duty of loyalty merely by preparing to compete with his employer. ... Second, and in any event, Priority Sports has presented no facts that describe how it was harmed by Plaintiff’s preparatory steps.”
THREE CAUSES REMAIN OUTSTANDING: The case was scheduled to go to trial on Nov. 13, but Wilson noted in his order that the only causes of action that remain are Mintz’ claims for defamation, interference with prospective economic relations and a violation of unfair competition laws. Wilson has previously stated that Mintz’ former and current basketball player clients would need to testify to prove these claims and his attorneys have stated in court that the players may be unavailable to testify.