Law of Cards: Topps in Lawsuit Where Other Side is Fighting Its Own Attorneys

Law of Cards: Topps in Lawsuit Where Other Side is Fighting Its Own Attorneys

I've litigated cases in many different industries: pharmaceutical, biotech, telecommunications, entertainment, software, clothing, sports equipment, just to name a few. And still, the most amusing stories come from litigation in the trading card industry.

Even the allegedly boring cases somehow become interesting.

Take for example, ValleySoft v. Topps. Six months ago a software company called ValleySoft sued Topps for breach of contract. Basically, ValleySoft did some nerdy-type computer work for Topps. ValleySoft then invoiced Topps for $48,274.00 for that work. Allegedly, Topps did not pay those invoices. So, ValleySoft sued Topps for breach of contract.

I learned about this case six months ago, but it did not involve trading cards or sports memorabilia, and frankly, given it was in the software industry and only alleged non-payment of invoices, it looked b-o-r-i-n-g.

So, I didn't write about it.

Still, the case involved a trading card company, so I monitored it. Just in case.

Good thing I did. Because on August 12, ValleySoft's attorneys filed a motion to withdraw from the case.

Legal translation: ValleySoft's attorneys want out of the case. Not ValleySoft. It looks like the software company wants to stick around. Its attorneys, not so much.

Why? ValleySoft's attorney's motion states that during the litigation, they presented invoices for their services to ValleySoft, and as of August 12, those invoices still had not been paid.

Let me see if I have this right. In a case where ValleySoft sued someone for allegedly not paying their invoices, ValleySoft allegedly didn't pay its invoices.

Only in the trading card industry.

The motion also states that ValleySoft's CEO informed its attorneys in May that he would no longer employ them (so I guess even though I am referring to ValleySoft's attorneys as ValleySoft's attorneys, they are no longer ValleySoft's attorneys?), and that he would be seeking alternate counsel.

Although, as of the time this motion was filed (three months later), new attorneys have not entered an appearance in the case for ValleySoft.

Legal comment: Guess it's kind of hard to hire new attorneys when the old attorneys allegedly were not paid.

Legally, the reason ValleySoft's ex-attorneys can't just leave the case is because a corporation cannot represent itself in court. It needs to have attorneys. So, unless ValleySoft finds new attorneys or the judge grants ValleySoft's ex-attorneys permission to leave, ValleySoft's ex-attorneys are technically ValleySoft's current attorneys.

Yes, it's all very Catch-22. Which, oddly, I just started reading again last week.

And while all of this nonsense is ongoing, Topps, the actual defendant who ValleySoft and ValleySoft's ex-attorneys should be jointly fighting, is sitting idly by, likely laughing and watching the parties fight each other.

Now, I've been involved in quite a few cases where the other side's attorneys tried fleeing the case. When each "motion to withdraw" crossed my screen, I knew it was a safe bet that the action, for my client, was over.

The action between the other side and its attorneys, however, was likely just starting.

Will that happen here? It's too early to tell, and because any case between ValleySoft's ex-attorneys and ValleySoft would definitely fall outside of the trading card industry, I will not follow it.

Really, since this ValleySoft case technically also has nothing to do with trading cards, it's unlikely I'll write more on it, too.

But the question that arises is -- why do trading card cases always involve wackiness? I guess if a trading card case would actually be straightforward, that would be wacky.

The information provided in Paul Lesko's "Law of Cards" column is not intended to be legal advice, but merely conveys general information related to legal issues commonly encountered in the sports industry. This information is not intended to create any legal relationship between Paul Lesko, the Simmons Browder Gianaris Angelides & Barnerd LLC or any attorney and the user. Neither the transmission nor receipt of these website materials will create an attorney-client relationship between the author and the readers.

The views expressed in the "Law of Cards" column are solely those of the author and are not affiliated with the Simmons Law Firm. You should not act or rely on any information in the "Law of Cards" column without seeking the advice of an attorney. The determination of whether you need legal services and your choice of a lawyer are very important matters that should not be based on websites or advertisements.

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Paul Lesko is a shareholder at Simmons Hanly Conroy and the chair of its Intellectual Property Department (http://www.simmonsfirm.com). Don’t hold the fact that Paul is a lawyer against him, he’s also a rabid baseball and college basketball fan, and an avid baseball card collector. Paul can be found on Twitter @Paul_Lesko and Google+.

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