Law of Cards: Upper Deck Wins $1.8 Million Verdict Against J&T Hobby

Law of Cards: Upper Deck Wins $1.8 Million Verdict Against J&T Hobby

Last month, the Upper Deck v. J&T Hobby/Joseph Pirozzi trial gave a detailed look into the trading card industry. The result: a $1.8 million jury verdict in favor of Upper Deck.

So, what happened?

This is the part of the article where I normally give an in depth analysis of the trial, discuss each witness’s testimony, throw in an explanation of some abstract legal principle or phrase (“res ipsa loquitor!”) and maybe make a joke or two.

But, this is going to be a less in depth look than I’d like because the available filings only tease us of the trial’s day-to-day.

Instead of detailed transcripts of each day’s testimony, we only get cryptic minute entries that summarize the daily occurrences. Like the below:

9:25am Irv Chaffardet is sworn and examined by Craig Nicholas on behalf of plaintiff, The Upper Deck Company, Inc.

9:59am Cross examination of Irv Chaffardet commences by John Gaule on behalf of defendant, J&T Hobby LLC.

10:24am The witness is excused.

Legal translation: Irv Chaffadert testified about something for an hour. What that something was, that’s not identified.

As someone who monitors legal proceedings in the trading card industry, I love cases in federal court. The reason: most everything filed in federal cases is accessible through the Internet. This is great for someone, say, sitting in his southern Illinois office who would like to peek in on a multi-day trial in California during his lunch hour.

Cases in state court—like this one—are less accessible.

This isn’t the fault of state courts. Federal courts have the advantage of a uniform system funded centrally by the federal government. State courts, on the other hand, have considerably less funding. Therefore, making documents accessible via the Internet is not a priority…especially when state courts do provide their documents to the public in an old school way: you have to show up to state court in person, check out the file, and then walk it down to the copy machine to obtain your copies.

This obviously presents a bit of a predicament for the current case. Take for example, the most exciting minute entry, March 9, the day the jury deliberated. It goes on for pages and pages without really saying anything, especially if you’re not into legal jargon. And then it keeps going. But then towards the end it gets to the juicy bits, a $1.8 million verdict in favor of Upper Deck and a loss by J&T Hobby/Pirozzi on its claims against Upper Deck.

More frustrating are the hints of important issues that arose during testimony. Like, Jury Note #2:

From Juror #7:

1. Before J&T signed contract, who did he ask, Does RW own Edge/Vintage? (Mike Phillips or Dominick Magliaro). 2. If he was lied to, does this qualify as negotiating in bad faith and by law does that (negotiating in bad faith) have legal power to nullify contract?

The note is not addressed by the Court

How cryptic and intriguing is that?

Sure, the minutes identify all of the witnesses called and evidence submitted, but they are remarkably light on the meat of the trial: the substance of the testimony.

What does this mean for the future of the case? Well, the case will not go straight to appeal. On March 23, J&T Hobby/Pirozzi informed the court they are going to seek a new trial because, allegedly:

  • There was an irregularity in the proceedings by the adverse party and an abusive discretion by the court, by which Joseph Pirozzi and J&T Hobby were prevented from having a fair trial.
  • There was an error in law occurring at trial, which was excepted by Joseph Pirozzi and J&T Hobby.

In an April 2 filing, we learned that the alleged irregularity was a failure by one of J&T Hobby/Pirozzi’s witnesses (Dominick Magliaro) to appear. In their own words, here is why that allegedly led to an unfair trial:

As set forth in the declaration of John V. Gaule, in a matter of days, Dominick Magliaro went from being a willing participant in the trial of this matter to a cowering fugitive. The court should have granted Cross-Complainants’ request for a continuance to investigate what Plaintiff had done to intimidate Mr. Magliaro to the point he refused to appear and testify at this matter.

Legal aside: Allegations of intimidation? Calling someone a “cowering fugitive”? There’s always something slightly crazy in trading card matters, right?

Motions for new trials are difficult to win. They basically ask judges to admit they made a mistake during the trial, and therefore wasted a week of 12 jurors' time. And since they need a do over, they’re going to have to inconvenience 12 more jurors. So, I don't like the chances of this one succeeding. But you never know.

Regardless, a hearing on the motion for a new trial is set in May. As things stand, however, Upper Deck has secured itself a good win.

In case you want to check out the available court documents, here you go:

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 Hanly Conroy 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 Simmons Hanly Conroy. 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 has litigated intellectual property for over 15 years. 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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