Legal Trickery – Eric A. Parzianello

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Tiger Woods Finds Florida’s Deceptive Trade Act Costly

Posted by Eric Parzianello on March 18, 2014

Your business contract has been breached in Florida and litigation can be costly.  However, as Tiger Woods will likely soon find out, Florida’s Deceptive Trade Practices Act (“DTPA”) provides a powerful tool for the collection of attorney’s fees.

Florida’s DTPA prohibits “unfair methods of competition, unconscionable acts or practices, and unfair or deceptive acts or practices in the conduct of any trade or commerce.”  Under the DTPA, the prevailing party may receive his or her reasonable attorney’s fees and costs from the nonprevailing party.  Therefore, even if your contract doesn’t provide for attorney’s fees in the event of breach, adding this cause of action may be beneficial if you can prevail on it.

In the recent case of Gotta Have It Golf Inc. vs. ETW Corp., owned by pro golfer Tiger Woods, the plaintiff had an exclusive arrangement requiring Woods’ company to provide memorabilia. It accused Woods of violating a 2001 licensing agreement after his company did not provide it the agreed amount of autographs and photographs for the plaintiff to sell.  Gotta Have It Golf alleged that Woods provided only 550 of 1,300 agreed autographs and denied the use of numerous photographs.

Although Woods testified at trial, a six woman jury was apparently unimpressed.  After deliberating for two hours on March 12, 2014, the jury found that Woods’ company breached its contract, violated its duty of good faith and fair dealing, and, importantly, engaged in deceptive and unfair trade practices under the DTPA.  A copy of the jury verdict can be found here.

The jury awarded $668,346.00 in damages to Gotta Have It Golf. Because of interest to be added to the judgment, the total amount owed could exceed $1.3 million.  Additionally, because the jury found liability under the DTPA, the plaintiff’s attorneys will seek attorney’s fees which could approximate $1 million.  Without making a claim under the DTPA, the plaintiff would likely have not had any ability to recover its attorney’s fees.

Lesson:  litigation creativity can result in cost effective representation.

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