MIAMI – A nine-person jury in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida recently found that Florida-based Worldwide Entertainment Group Inc., promoters of the Ultra Miami Music Festival, had intentionally set out to defraud Adria MM Productions Ltd. by taking over a music festival promoted by Adria and confiscating the proceeds.
At the conclusion of the five-day trial, U.S. District Judge Federico A. Moreno said Sept. 24 that Worldwide was guilty of breach of contract and intentional interference with the business relations of Adria, a Croatian company that produces music festivals in Croatia and Europe. He announced that as a result, Adria would receive $866,000 in damages. In addition, the jury also found that Adria had breached its contract with Worldwide, and owed $366,211 in damages.
According to Yano Rubinstein of San Francisco, lead counsel for Adria, “Worldwide had secretly sabotaged Adria’s communication channels, both internally and with its customers. Adria’s company emails and social media pages were also affected.”
He said that Worldwide, without any notice to Adria while they were working together, shut off all emails to social media channels and told ticket vendors that proceeds from ticket sales should be turned over to Worldwide.
Eventually, when Adria could not access their emails, they reset their passwords and learned that their emails were being forwarded to Worldwide’s attorneys. Worldwide had changed the passwords without telling Adria.
Rubinstein said the likely motive behind this subversive action was that Worldwide had wanted Adria to sign a new five-year contract that Adria did not want to sign. “We know now that Worldwide was monitoring Adria’s emails,” Rubinstein said. “They learned that Adria was discussing doing a different festival with someone Worldwide considered a competitor. Once Worldwide realized that Adria was not likely to sign another five-year contract, they did everything they could to force Adria to sign. This included seizing the monies from the ticket sales.”
Eventually Worldwide took the festival away from Adria. Rubinstein said Worldwide hired a former partner of Adria, who had been kicked out of the company for stealing money belonging to Adria, to put on the festival. “Although Adria had worked for four-and-a-half years to organize the festival, they were shut out,” he said.
The good news, according to Rubinstein, is now that Adria has prevailed, other companies are considering taking similar actions as well.
Although Moreno did not allow Adria to seek punitive damages, Rubinstein said they may do that in the future. He said he thinks that should have been allowed in this case. An additional request for reimbursement of legal fees and expenses will also be applied for.
Adria MM Productions was represented by Rubinstein and Phillip Seltzer of San-Francisco based Rubinstein Law, and Gail McQuilken of Kozyak, Tropin, & Thockmorton, Miami.
Defendant Worldwide Entertainment Group was represented by Peter Valori and Russell Landry of Damian & Valori, Miami.