Commercial · Trade Secret

Oakland Coffee Companies Fight; Blue Bottle Named in RICO Action

U.S.D.C. Nor. Cal. – A 59 page complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California tells the tale of a coffee scandal involving famed Blue Bottle Coffee. Plaintiff Mocha Mill, an Oakland company, alleges that its CEO conspired with competitor Port of Mokha to steal Mocha Mill’s product and distribution relationships.

According to the complaint, Mocha Mill spent thousands of dollars sending its CEO on extended educational trips around the world, forming relationships with Yemeni farmers and refining the processes to make Yemeni coffee. Mocha Mill alleges these efforts were successful in creating a new buzz for the product.

As soon as the CEO realized that they were on the right track, it is alleged that he shopped it for himself, including conspiring with Port of Mokha and distributor Blue Bottle, to convince unwitting Mocha Mill investors that their product had no value.

This will be an interesting case for Judge Laurel Beeler, one of the better judges on the N.D.Cal. roster.

This blog reports on cases filed in and around the San Francisco Bay Area. The statements made are based on the allegations in court-filed documents. Allegations are just accusations, and may or may not be true.
The authors of the blog are attorneys at the San Francisco litigation firm, Wood Robbins, LLP. If you have a legal issue, send them an email. If they cannot help you, they will try and point you in the right direction.
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Trade Secret

In Trial: Lawyers Battle Over Client… Information

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – According to defendant’s trial brief, a Los Angeles firm, SwedelsonGottlieb, sent an associate, William Noland, to open an office in San Francisco, which he did successfully. When the associate did not make partner, he went off on his own and got sued by his former employer out of “anger and spite.” According to the Complaint, Mr. Noland solicited SwedelsonGottlieb’s clients to go with him before and after his departure and took/used proprietary client data in the process.

Litigation is about storytelling as much as anything else. The stories told in almost every trade secret case of this type are the same. The defendant says the employer is just trying to bury their startup with attorney’s fees and costs. The plaintiff claims legitimate trade secret information existed and was misused.

In many instances, both stories are true. Often plaintiffs are disgruntled and looking for revenge. Equally as often, departing employees do not get good advice, or do not listen to it, and use more information than they should. Emotion, and specifically anxiety, drives the parties to costly outcomes.

Per defendant’s brief, Mr. Noland had incurred $500,000 in legal fees and costs, and trial obviously had not yet begun.

This blog reports on cases filed in and around the San Francisco Bay Area. The statements made are based on the allegations in court-filed documents. Allegations are just accusations, and may or may not be true.
The authors of the blog are attorneys at the San Francisco litigation firm, Wood Robbins, LLP. If you have a legal issue, send them an email. If they cannot help you, they will try and point you in the right direction.
Commercial

Sonnen Motorcars Sues Many for Embezzlement, $7.4 Million

MARIN, CA – This civil complaint follows criminal proceedings against three managers at the Sonnen car dealerships in Marin. The managers are alleged to have orchestrated an embezzlement scheme that primarily involved paying fake advertising vendors. Per the allegations, the payments largely went back to the embezzlers.

Though most of the defendant companies are alleged to be complete shams, at least one is a going business in San Francisco, a glass company called San Francisco MAZ. The complaint alleges members of the Maroufi family were involved in the scam, including the owner of San Francisco MAZ, Maury Maroufi, who the complaint alleges embezzled $38,000 by submitting fake invoices for payment.

Setting up fake vendors is in the top five list of methods embezzlers use to steal from unwitting corporate owners. Be careful out there.

This blog reports on cases filed in and around the San Francisco Bay Area. The statements made are based on the allegations in court-filed documents. Allegations are just accusations, and may or may not be true.
The authors of the blog are attorneys at the San Francisco litigation firm, Wood Robbins, LLP. If you have a legal issue, send them an email. If they cannot help you, they will try and point you in the right direction.
Defect Disclosure

Adamas Builders Alleged to Have Concealed Work Without Permits in Sale of $7 Million Russian Hill Property

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – Buyers of a $7 million dollar home in Russian Hill are suing the sellers, developers Andrew Broughton and Tony DiGiorgio of Adamas Builders, alleging they were deceived in the transaction.

The complaint alleges that the developers represented that all remodel work was done with permits and no other major issues were present. Shortly after the close of escrow though, the new buyers claim to have learned that there was a Notice of Violation issued because the work was not permitted. The complaint alleges that building plans provided to the plaintiff-buyers prior to the close of escrow were different from building plans approved by the City.

The developers are alleged to have installed interior walls and make other corrections to abate the violation(s) and, in so doing, have gutted the character of the home. Plaintiffs seek rescission of the purchase and sale agreement, among other damages.

This blog reports on cases filed in and around the San Francisco Bay Area. The statements made are based on the allegations in court-filed documents. Allegations are just accusations, and may or may not be true.
The authors of the blog are attorneys at the San Francisco litigation firm, Wood Robbins, LLP. If you have a legal issue, send them an email. If they cannot help you, they will try and point you in the right direction.
Fun/Interesting

SF Credit Union Sues SFMTA for $28 Million, for Not Stopping Uber, Lyft

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – The San Francisco Federal Credit Union is suing the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) for allegedly failing to protect the taxi industry in the face of ride share company growth. The credit union allegedly financed the purchase of 700 medallions at $250,000 each on the transit authority’s assurances that it would maintain a secondary market for the medallions. The credit union wants $28 million..

This is a fascinating example of the behind-the-scenes financial arrangements that are largely unknown to the general public and yet, at the same time, driving outcomes. As the story goes, in or around 2009 and 2010, the City sought to change the structure of taxi medallions to raise revenue. Instead of the medallions being sold for a nominal fee, they would be sold for $250,000 each. There would be a limited number in circulation to maintain values, and they would be transferable.

Since no taxi driver could afford the hefty price tag, plaintiff alleges the city approached the credit union to provide financing and, in so doing, made certain assurances and guarantees. The credit union agreed, banking on the secondary market being maintained and taxi drivers/borrowers being able to make enough money to satisfy their financing obligations.

The complaint alleges that SFMTA did little to nothing to stop Uber and Lyft, and the result is that the average medallion-holding taxi driver cannot make enough money to pay back their medallion loan. Specifically, the complaint alleges that taxi drivers were making $8,000 to $9,000 per month driving a taxi and then leasing the medallion to another driver in their off time or to a taxi company. Because of Uber and Lyft, there is no demand for the medallions, and no one to operate the cab when the medallion-holder isn’t using it.

This blog reports on cases filed in and around the San Francisco Bay Area. The statements made are based on the allegations in court-filed documents. Allegations are just accusations, and may or may not be true.
The authors of the blog are attorneys at the San Francisco litigation firm, Wood Robbins, LLP. If you have a legal issue, send them an email. If they cannot help you, they will try and point you in the right direction.
Wage and Hour

Security Guard Firms Targeted in Wage and Hour Suits

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – Within the last six months, three lawsuits have been filed by three different plaintiff’s lawyers against two security guard companies, all alleging the guards are misclassified as independent contractors among other wage and hour violations. Braavos Inc. dba Bannerman was sued last year and again in February. Cypress Security was sued in March.

The test for whether a worker is an employee and/or an independent contractor largely depends on the level of control. Assuming these security guards had to show up for shifts, and had specific job duties while on their shift, these guard companies may have a hard time proving that the workers were contractors.

Other factors considered include whether the worker was paid for their time or by job, if the worker had a business name and other client-employers, and if the rate paid was fixed or subject to negotiation.

This blog reports on cases filed in and around the San Francisco Bay Area. The statements made are  based on the allegations in court-filed documents. Allegations are just accusations, and may or may not be true.
The authors of the blog are attorneys at the San Francisco litigation firm,Wood Robbins, LLP. If you have a legal issue, send them an email. If they cannot help you, they will try and point you in the right direction.
Commercial · Real Estate

In Trial: Bridge Motel Owners Litigate Property/Defamation Disputes

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – Judge Andrew Cheng is wrapping up a jury trial between two brothers and a third individual who co-own the Bridge Motel, dimly viewed SRO housing over retail space on Lombard St. The adjacent parcel is also involved in the suit.

The original action was a partition action against the brothers, but cross-complainant’s trial brief indicates a settlement was reached to sell the property or properties. Left for a jury was a defamation action arising from a email-letter written by the plaintiff.

Court records indicate the jury reached a verdict on the defamation claim in favor of the brothers, and even found punitive damages warranted. Amounts are not yet posted. A settlement conference is scheduled for the 20th.

This blog reports on cases filed in and around the San Francisco Bay Area. The statements made are based on the allegations in court-filed documents. Allegations are just accusations, and may or may not be true.
The authors of the blog are attorneys at the San Francisco litigation firm, Wood Robbins, LLP. If you have a legal issue, send them an email. If they cannot help you, they will try and point you in the right direction.