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Apr 09 2012

Review of the “Bachelor” vs. Bob Guiney Lawsuit

I put a pause on reporting on the current “Reality Steve” lawsuit events so I could look backwards to earlier lawsuits initiated by the “Bachelor” producers. I believe important clues can be found by looking to prior related cases. In this case, I was specifically interested in finding out more about the “Bachelor” producers’ lawsuit against Season 4 “Bachelor”, Bob Guiney.

Before any decision or ruling is ever made in a current lawsuit, attorneys for both plaintiffs and defendants and the judge look to legal precedents. Wikipedia defines legal precedent as “an already decided decision which furnishes the basis for later cases involving similar facts and issues.”

There are several reasons for this. One reason is to ensure consistent application of the law. Another reason is to simply not reinvent the wheel in making decisions. By looking at past legal decisions, it offers insights and makes it easier to rule in the current case.

Even if there is no direct legal precedent, I believe in looking for patterns in past behavior. Because historical events often offer insights to current events, the lawsuit against Season 4 “Bachelor” Bob Guiney seemed appropriate.

For most people, the Bob Guiney lawsuit is old news. However, I am coming in with a fresh pair of eyes with the intent of looking for connections, parallels, and comparisons between the 2003 lawsuit filed against Bob Guiney and the 2011 lawsuit filed against “Reality Steve”, Steve Carbone.

Unfortunately, I was not able to get all the documents I wanted, specifically the initial and amended complaints. However, I did find enough to make some interesting observations and comparisons.

Sometime following the conclusion of his “Bachelor” season, Guiney with his record label, Wind-Up Records, began promoting and marketing his music CD. The “Bachelor” producers at that time were named AND Syndicated Productions (ASP).

On December 19, 2003, ASP filed a lawsuit against Guiney to stop him and Wind-Up from promoting and marketing his music CD. ASP asked for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction (essentially a cease-and-desist order).

Coincidentally in another December lawsuit filing, NZK Productions (NZKP) filed a lawsuit against Steve Carbone on December 6, 2011. NZKP also asked for a preliminary injunction (in addition to a permanent injunction) from Carbone.  Michael J. O’Connor was an attorney for ASP in the Guiney lawsuit then and now an attorney for NZKP in the Reality Steve lawsuit.

ASP initially filed the Bob Guiney lawsuit in the Los Angeles Superior Court but it was moved to the Federal Court in the Central District of California because of diversity. Guiney did not live in California at the time and did not contest the jurisdiction (unlike Carbone and his lawyer Brad Kizzia). Incidentally, the Bob Guiney lawsuit is in the same district that the Reality Steve lawsuit is currently in.

According to the December 23, 2003 Order denying Plaintiff’s ex-parte application, Guiney signed an agreement with ASP containing an Exclusivity Provision:

I agree that for a period commencing on the date of this Agreement and concluding six (6) months after the date of the initial broadcast of the Series episode in which the Bachelor reveals his decision regarding the final Bachelorette (hereinafter the “Initial Exclusivity Period”), I shall not appear on or authorize production of or participate in any way with any other television programming, the development of any other television programming (including but not limited to negotiation with third parties regarding the development of any type of programming), radio programming, print media, on-line services, or any other media outlet now known or hereafter devised (including, but not limited to the internet [including chat rooms, message boards, etc.])

Based on the terms of the Exclusivity Provision and a 6-month extension, ASP paid Guiney $50,000. This was supposed to be in effect until November 2004. However, in October 17, 2003, Guiney and Wind-Up Entertainment entered into a full service recording contract.

ASP accused Guiney of breach of the Exclusivity Provision and that Wind-Up intentionally interfered with ASP’s contract with Guiney. (In another interesting parallel to Guiney’s case, Carbone (similar to Wind-Up) is being accused of intentionally interfering with a Bachelor show contestant.)

ASP wanted to stop Guiney (and anyone else that would assist him) in appearing in any television, radio, print media, online services, or any other media including the Internet without ASP’s consent.

ASP wanted to stop Wind-Up from promoting, publicizing, marketing, advertising, or in any way sharing Guiney’s name, face, or likeness in any television, radio, print media, online services, or any other media including the Internet without ASP’s consent.

The Court used the traditional test for granting preliminary injunction. The Court also quoted California Civil Code 3423 (e):

An injunction may not be granted:

(e) To prevent the breach of a contract the performance of which would not be specifically enforced, other than a contract in writing for the rendition of personal services from one to another where the promised service is of a special, unique, unusual, extraordinary, or intellectual character, which gives it peculiar value, the loss of which cannot be reasonably or adequately compensated in damages in an action at law…

Because ASP conceded that Guiney was a “regular guy”, the personal service for which he was hired for he “Bachelor” show was to portray and appear as himself, NOT as a performer. The court stated that when Guiney entered into the Agreement, he was NOT a performer of “star quality.”

On December 23, 2003, the judge DENIED the temporary restraining order.

Essentially, because Guiney was just a “regular” guy and not a performer, the clause was unenforceable.

On a different note, I suspect that most of the other Bachelor and Bachelorette show contestants from earlier shows also enjoy that same freedom regardless of what the Contract they signed with the “Bachelor” producers may say about their not being able to appear in other media such as TV, radio, newspaper, Internet, etc. or promote unrelated products and services.

I believe Guiney helped set a legal precedent for many other Bachelor and Bachelorette show contestants to seek freedom of any overbearing and unenforceable clauses within their Agreements.

The “Bachelor” producers apparently did not have any problems (that I know of) with “Bachelorette” show contestant Wes Hayden promoting his own music on the show or after his season was over.

On March 4, 2004, the Court recounted the following within the Order Granting Defendants’ Motions to Dismiss:

One of the arguments made by Guiney and Wind-Up was that the Exclusivity Provision was an unlawful restraint on trade in violation of California Business & Professions Code § 16600.

§ 16600.  Except as provided in this chapter, every contract by which anyone is restrained from engaging in a lawful profession, trade, or business of any kind is to that extent void.

ASP argued that § 16600 was not applicable to the Exclusivity Provision for four reasons:

  1. § 16600 applies only to employment agreements and Guiney’s agreement was not one.
  2. The Exclusivity Provision does not completely prevent Guiney from engaging in any particular profession.
  3. ASP’s agreement with Guiney is ongoing and they have the right to prevent Guiney from working elsewhere specifically to be available for publicity interviews, photos, on-the-air and other publicity activities.
  4. The Exclusivity Provision is valid because it is supported by substantial consideration. (Guiney was paid $50,000).

On Point 1, the Court struck down because of the clarity of § 16600. § 16600 applied to ALL contracts regardless of employment contract or not.

On Point 2, the Court found that the Exclusivity Provision was too broad. And if taken literally, it could be used to prevent Guiney from engaging in any business that used advertisements. As such, the Court struck it down.

On Point 3, the Court found that Guiney’s services to ASP had ended, not ongoing as ASP claimed.

On Point 4, regardless of the consideration paid ($50,000 to Guiney), California statute did not allow for an exception based on “substantial consideration”.

Overall, the Court found the Exclusivity Provision overly broad and void under § 16600. And because ASP hung their entire breach of contract argument on the Exclusivity Provision, the Court dismissed ASP’s breach of contract claim against Guiney.

Because ASP’s claim against Wind-Up for intentional interference of contractual relations was based on an alleged breach of an unenforceable provision, the Court found ASP’s claim against Wind-Up failed as a matter of law.

On March 4, 2004, the Court granted defendants’ motion to dismiss but allowed ASP 20 days to amend its complaint if it was so inclined.

From March 24, 2004 to June 8, 2004, four extensions were requested by and granted to Guiney.

Ultimately, on June 23, 2004, ASP, Guiney, and Wind-Up decided to settle their case with each party paying their own legal fees and to undisclosed terms.

It is entirely possible that Guiney had to give back the $50,000 payment he initially received as part of the settlement. No one except Guiney, Wind-Up, ASP, and their attorneys know the exact terms of the settlement.

But ultimately, I regard the Bob Guiney settlement as a win for Guiney. He was able to successfully move on with his life and freedom with little fear from the “Bachelor” producers.

I think the outcome of the Bob Guiney lawsuit should prove to Carbone and his lawyer, Brad Kizzia, that the Central District of California does have the ability to hear Carbone’s case fairly. Bob Guiney also did not live in California at that time. As such, the Federal court in California heard Guiney’s case under diversity and Guiney did not appear to be penalized for it.

It should not be a foregone conclusion that Hollywood would automatically win in a lawsuit against the “average” man as is the case of Carbone. Bob Guiney and his lawyers proved that.

 

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