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Week In Review

By Chris Helsel

NY Mets Settle Suit With Ex-Senior VP Fired When Pregnant and Single

The New York Mets (team, club) and former senior vice president for ticket sales Leigh Castergine released a joint statement announcing that the two sides agreed to "resolve" Ms. Castergine's 2014 federal discrimination lawsuit against the team. In her suit, which was filed in the Eastern District of New York, Ms. Castergine accused the club's co-owner and chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon of firing her because he was "morally opposed" to her being pregnant and unmarried.

Ms. Castergine's complaint also alleged that Mr. Wilpon, whose father is the club's principal owner, frequently humiliated her in front of other employees by mockingly pretending to see if she had an engagement ring on her finger. Mr. Wilpon also allegedly told Ms. Castergine's co-workers to refrain from asking her how she was doing ("She's not sick, she's pregnant") and told her that "when she gets a ring she will make more money and get a bigger bonus."

Ms. Castergine contended that upon returning to work after giving birth, she faced harsh criticism and, for the first time, received negative evaluations from her superiors. She said her complaints to Human Resources were ignored, and that Mr. Wilpon offered to allow her to keep her job despite not meeting ticket sales expectations if she would keep quiet about the discrimination claims. According to the complaint, when she refused and told Mr. Wilpon via email that she intended to sue, he responded by firing her three minutes later.

The Mets denied the claims and alleged that Ms. Castergine conflicted with her immediate superior, the club's chief revenue officer Lou DePaoli, and other executives prior to becoming pregnant. The club contended that she was ultimately let go by Mr. DePaoli despite receiving "longstanding support" from Mr. Wilpon.

The two sides avoided trial by agreeing to a settlement this week. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed. In their joint statement, the parties said they "have decided to resolve this matter, which has brought more attention to the workplace environment for women in sports and will result in the organization being more attentive to the important issues raised by women in sports." They added, "Additionally, we are both committed to the further development and encouragement of female executives in our industry."


Extended Cover Art Legal Battle Ends With Settlement In Band's Favor

Heavy metal band Tool, who has not released an album in eight years largely due to multi-layered ongoing litigation, has finally reached a settlement in its favor. The trouble began when the band was sued in 2005 by Cam De Leon, who claimed he owned a copyright on artwork he contributed to one of the band's album covers. Tool had previously purchased liability insurance, but the company refused to underwrite certain legal costs and ended up suing the band as well.

Mr. De Leon claimed that since he was not officially an employee and did not sign a work-for-hire agreement, he owned the copyright to his works. He alleges that he terminated the licenses to the band in June 2005, after which time the band improperly continued to use his art. Mr. De Leon also claimed that Tool members made defamatory statements about him, causing him to lose business with other artists and companies. The federal copyright case was settled following mediation and dismissed in October 2007.

After years of delay, the insurance lawsuit finally reached a California state court this month. The matter was quickly settled, allowing the band to return to the studio once again. Details of the settlement were not disclosed.

Following the settlement, guitarist Adam Jones spoke to Yahoo! Music and described the effect of the lawsuit on the band's creativity and offered hope that it would return to making music soon: "When you try to be ethical and sleep well at night and try to do the right thing, and people around you are not doing the right thing and trying to take advantage of you, it really affects your creativity and your sleep and your relationships with people and everything you do. We would have had an album out a long time ago, we would have been taking more tours. But we've been discouraged and distracted by this major lawsuit, which is the worst thing that's ever happened to us."


French Court Grants Art House Catalog Photographer's Copyright Claim

In a ruling that is sure to make the international art-for-profit community nervous, a French court has ruled that a photographer of furniture for auction house catalogs has a claim for damages for violation of copyright against an online price database arising from its use of his photos alongside sales results.

The defendant in the case is Artnet, a leading database for art, decorative objects and antiques sales. Artnet maintains that the plaintiff, Stéphane Briolant, is the first photographer to ever claim copyright fees from the company on top of the fees received from auction houses for his work. The company argued in court that the photographs were not subject to copyright protection because the photographer had no input into how the photos would be taken, but rather was compelled by the auction houses to shoot the objects a certain way.

After losing in lower court, a higher French court found for Mr. Briolant and awarded him €750,000 for claims relating to 6,758 photographs. Artnet's major competitor, Artprice S.A., was also made to pay a similar amount.

As a result of the ruling, Artner has removed all of Mr. Briolant's photographs from its database. This leads to the obvious concern that if other similar claims arise, consumers could suffer from a lack of price transparency in the absence of a vibrant online price database.


NY Federal Appeals Court Revives Lawsuit Involving Art Allegedly Stolen By Nazis

In 2013, 75-year old Holocaust survivor Leone Meyer brought suit in New York federal court, alleging that she was entitled to a Camille Pissarro painting that was stolen from her father as Nazi troops made their way across France during World War II. Swiss records show that the Danish-French impressionist's 1886 "Shepherdess Bringing in Sheep" was owned by Ms. Meyer's father, but a Swiss court rejected her ownership claim because post-war owners had properly established ownership.

After the war, the painting was purchased by American oil tycoon Aaron Weitzenhoffer from a New York gallery in 1956. Upon his wife's death in 2000, it was bequeathed to the Oklahoma University, which has displayed it publicly ever since.

After losing in Swiss court, Ms. Meyer brought her case to New York federal court, where it was dismissed. However, on appeal, the Second Circuit directed the lower court to consider whether the case should be transferred to Oklahoma. The university has defended its rights to the painting, though in a statement this week said it is "continuing its efforts to work with the plaintiffs to determine all the facts in this matter, some of which may still be unknown, and to seek a mutually agreeable resolution."

However, the school has also maintained that it does not want to set a bad precedent by automatically giving away art works to anyone who claims them. It has opposed the lawsuit on procedural grounds, claiming sovereign immunity and that Ms. Meyer failed to diligently pursue her claim. The school also accused Ms. Meyer of forum shopping by filing suit in New York rather than Oklahoma in order to avoid Oklahoma's more restrictive statue of limitations.


Roger Clemens/Brian McNamee Defamation Suit Settled After Seven Years

This week, attorneys representing former Major League Baseball pitcher Roger Clemens and his former trainer, Brian McNamee, reached a settlement in Mr. McNamee's defamation claim against his former client.

The case stems from the 2007 publication of former Senator George J. Mitchell's report on the widespread use of performance-enhancing drugs in baseball, which included allegations from Mr. McNamee that he had provided human growth hormone to Mr. Clemens and his then-teammate, Andy Pettitte. Mr. Pettitte quickly admitted his guilt and apologized, but Mr. Clemens denied the allegations and repeated his denials under oath before a Congressional Committee. Before that same Committee, Mr. McNamee repeated his assertions and swore that he was personally provided the illicit substance to Mr. Clemens.

Following the two men's contrary testimonies, Mr. Clemens was charged with perjury. He was acquitted in 2012.

Meanwhile, Mr. Clemens filed a defamation suit against Mr. McNamee, which was later dismissed. Mr. McNamee then countersued in Brooklyn federal court, claiming that Mr. Clemens had damaged his reputation by calling him a liar and mentally unstable. That suit settled this week.

Following the settlement, attorneys for Mr. Clemens, who pitched for four teams over 24 seasons and was named the American League Most Valuable Player in 1986, in addition to winning seven Cy Young awards (given to the league's best pitcher), were quick to point out the settlement included no admission of any wrongdoing and that Mr. Clemens would not be contributing any of the money. Instead, the payment will come from Mr. Clemens' homeowners policy with AIG that covers defamation claims. Attorney Rusty Hardin, who represents Mr. Clemens, said this week that it was AIG who decided to settle the case. The insurer, he said, "made a decision about the cost of trying the case and decided it was cheaper to settle."


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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on March 20, 2015 4:28 PM.

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