Cases & Deals

Client obtains complete victory in criminal and civil wiretapping matters

Client(s) Entertainment firm

In December 2012 and March 2013, Jones Day obtained summary judgment for a pre-eminent LA based entertainment firm in two cases seeking to hold the firm liable for the wiretapping activities of Hollywood celebrity private investigator Anthony Pellicano, who was retained for several cases in which the client was counsel. In September 2014, Jones Day obtained affirmance of the one of those two judgments that was appealed.

When Pellicano's wiretapping came to light, the client and several of its attorneys were among the key targets of both the criminal probe and numerous civil suits, and several Hollywood figures found themselves in the spotlight, including Chris Rock, Michael Ovitz, Steven Seagal, Brad Grey, and Tom Cruise. Jones Day has been representing the firm since 2005 in criminal and civil matters arising out of Pellicano's wiretapping. To date, Jones Day has assisted the client and its attorneys in avoiding criminal charges as well as defending against five separate civil suits. In one of these, Jones Day obtained a dismissal after the trial court sustained its demurrer without leave to amend. With this win, Jones Day was able to negotiate nominal settlements in another two cases. But the remaining two plaintiffs chose to continue with litigation.

In both of the remaining cases, the statute of limitations became the central issue. Both plaintiffs filed their lawsuits after the limitations period ran. But both plaintiffs claimed that they could not have discovered their claims earlier. According to plaintiffs, although each suspected that Pellicano had wiretapped them, they could not have discovered their claims until the government disclosed to them certain evidence or otherwise told them that they were victims of Pellicano's wiretapping schemes.

In both matters, Jones Day moved for summary judgment, arguing that California's "discovery rule" did not toll the statute because the plaintiffs' subjective suspicions of wiretapping were sufficient to start the limitations period. Alternatively, Jones Day argued that it was sufficient for plaintiffs' claim to accrue because a reasonable person would have suspected the wiretapping claims based on the information known by and publicly available to the plaintiffs. The trial court agreed with Jones Day's account of the law, held that the plaintiffs' claims had accrued outside the limitations period under both of these independent standards, and granted Jones Day's motions on all claims.

In one of the matters, the plaintiff filed an appeal. A month after oral argument in late August 2014, the Court of Appeal unanimously affirmed, agreeing with Jones Day's account of the law. Like the trial court, it held that plaintiff's claims accrued outside the limitations period under either of California's two independent bases for accrual: It was sufficient that he subjectively suspected having been wiretapped; it was also sufficient that a reasonable person would have suspected having been wiretapped. The plaintiff then filed a Petition for Review, which the Supreme Court denied. Los Angeles lawyers Brian Sun and Jason Wright, and Kevin Marshall from the Washington office, worked on the matter.

Bo Zenga v. City of Los Angeles, et al., Case No: BC316459 (Super. Ct. Los Angeles Cty., Central Dist.), aff'd, Case No. B248318, 2014 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 6764 (Cal. Ct. App. 2014); Sapir v. Cruise, et al., Case No. BC428383 (Super. Ct. Los Angeles Cty., Central Dist.)