Monday, June 26, 2006
C. A. Reinstates Commission Suit Against Actress Blasi
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Court of Appeal for this district ruled Friday that actress Rosa Blasiís former personal manager may pursue an action against her for unpaid commissions.†
Unanimously reversing a grant of summary judgment, Div. One reinstated Marathon Entertainment, Inc.ís breach of contract suit against Blasi.
Under an oral contract Blasi and Marathon entered into in 1998, Marathon was to serve as Blasiís personal manager in exchange for a percentage of Blasiís entertainment employment income earned during the course of the contract.
Blasi terminated the contract in 2001, and in 2003 Marathon sued her alleging that it had performed contracted-for servicesósuch as providing the down payment on Blasiís home and covering her travel expensesóbut Blasi reneged on her agreement to pay a 15% commission from her employment contract for the Strong Medicine television series.
Blasi co-starred in the series, in which she played a street-savvy single mother working as a doctor at a womenís heath center, for six years. The last episode aired earlier this year.
After obtaining a Labor Commission finding that Marathon had violated the Talent Agency Act during the course of its personal management agreement with her by soliciting and procuring employment on her behalf without a talent agency license, Blasi moved for summary judgment on the theory that Marathonís unlawful actions rendered the entire agreement unenforceable as an illegal contract.
Writing for the court, Justice Frances Rothschild agreed with Marathonís argument on appeal that there was a possibility of enforcing the disputed commission provision by severing out the unlawful parts of the agreement from the contract.
The judge explained that law and equity generally disfavor forfeiture and noted that Marathonís personal management contract served a lawful purpose, while Blasi produced no evidence in her summary judgment motion that Marathonís illegal talent agency activities were linked to her Strong Medicine employment contract.
ďUnder the doctrine of severability of contracts, it is possible that Marathon, despite allegedly having violated the Act, may recover a commission on an artistís employment contract that was legally procured,Ē Rothschild said, concluding that the summary judgment order was erroneous because triable issues of material fact existed regarding the severability of the agreement.
The judge also disagreed with Blasiís contention that allowing recovery for personal managers such as Marathon that engage in unlicensed talent agency activities would destroy their incentive to comply with the Act.†
ďWe believe that permitting the possible recovery of commissions on lawfully procured employment contracts but barring such recovery on illegally procured employment contracts will provide personal managers with ample financial incentive to comply with the Act,Ē she wrote.
Blasi was represented on appeal by Michael J. Plonsker and Daniel A. Fiore of Alschuler Grossman Stein & Kahan.† Marathon was represented by Donald V. Smiley, Gerard P. Fox and Alex M. Weingarten.
The case is Marathon Entertainment, Inc. v. Blasi, 06 S.O.S. 3195.
Copyright 2006, Metropolitan News Company