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Judge admonishes losing counsel in long-running litigation

January 29, 2015

A federal judge admonished a lawyer Wednesday whose clients were found to have abused the process in prosecuting a trademark infringement suit against a similar wine-and-art business.

Christopher Muylle is seeking more than $175,000 in legal fees against Wine & Canvas Development LLC and third-party defendants Tamara Scott, Donald McCracken, and Anthony Scott, on top of damages ordered in his successful counter-claim in a long-running lawsuit. District Judge Tanya Walton Pratt granted Muylle’s motion to strike the Wine & Canvas parties’ response in opposition that came in late and long.

After a filing deadline had been extended to Jan. 19 for the Wine & Canvas parties’ response to Muylle’s fee petition, it wasn’t filed until Jan. 20, so Pratt wrote that Muylle was entitled to strike the brief prepared by attorney P. Adam Davis of Davis & Sarbinoff LLP.

“(Wine & Canvas) Parties’ counsel is well aware that because of electronic filing, one can file in federal court late at night, early in the morning, on weekends, or on legal holidays. Instead of filing a timely response brief after two extensions of time, counsel to WNC Parties ignored the deadline and untimely filed the response brief,” Pratt wrote.

“In the response to Mr. Muylle’s Motion to Strike, counsel to WNC Parties claims ignorance of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the Local Rules of this Court. Counsel apologizes for his ignorance and disregard of the rules. But counsel’s repeated disregard for and supposed ignorance of the rules is no excuse, and an apology does not allow counsel to continue to disregard the rules and court orders. The Court admonishes Mr. Davis for his untimely filings,” the order states.

Pratt wrote the brief also was 40 pages long, in excess of the 35-page limit for response briefs. She allowed filing of an amended response.
 
Muylle was sued for his involvment in California businesses such as YN Canvas CA LLC, and Art Uncorked. Wine & Canvas claimed Muylle and others wrongly used its trademarks and breached non-competition provisions.

Almost three years after the Wine & Canvas parties moved the lawsuit to federal court, a jury in November found for Muylle on all claims and awarded him $270,000 in damages after finding several parties guilty of abuse of process in his counter-claim. Litigation brought by Wine & Canvas involving other defendants continues.

Subsequently, Muylle’s attorney, Ron Waicukauski of Price Waicukauski & Riley LLC, petitioned the court for legal fees leading up to trial allowed under the Lanham Act for prevailing parties in “exceptional” cases.   

“The case at bar qualifies as ‘exceptional,’” Muylle's fee petition claims. “The jury found against (Wine & Canvas parties) on (their) two remaining trademark claims and found in favor of Mr. Muylle on his abuse of process claim. The evidence presented at trial showed that the (Wine & Canvas parties) sued Mr. Muylle with the ulterior purpose of causing him to incur legal fees so that he would be unable to operate his business and did so without having any substantial factual or legal basis for their numerous allegations.”

Muylle’s petition noted that during the course of litigation, the Wine & Canvas parties had been sanctioned three times for failing to comply with discovery or court rules.

The case is Wine & Canvas Development LLC v. Theodore Weisser, Christopher Muylle, YN Canvas CA, LLC and Art Uncorked, 1:11-CV-01598.

 


 

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