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Quantum Cooking Concepts, Inc., et al v. Lv Associates

July 21, 2011

QUANTUM COOKING CONCEPTS, INC., ET AL., PLAINTIFFS AND RESPONDENTS,
v.
LV ASSOCIATES, INC., ET AL., DEFENDANTS AND APPELLANTS.



(Los Angeles County Super. Ct. No. BC379011) APPEAL from a judgment and post-trial orders of the Los Angeles Superior Court. Rolf M. Treu, Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Chaney, J.

CERTIFIED FOR PARTIAL PUBLICATION*fn1

Affirmed.

Appellants LV Associates, Inc., Royal Range Of California, Inc., and Laxminarasimhan Vasan (collectively LV Associates), appeal from a judgment awarding $1 million damages to Quantum Cooking Concepts, Inc. and Philip Gonzales (sometimes collectively Quantum), and from orders denying motions for a new trial and for judgment notwithstanding the verdict. We affirm.

Background

Quantum's operative pleading alleged causes of action seeking damages from LV Associates based on breach of contract, fraud, and a dozen other theories of contract and tort liability. Quantum's theory of the case was that while working at Royal Range of California, Inc. (a company that he had helped to found with his ex-wife's husband), Gonzales had designed and developed a new type of barbeque grill and a commercial vertical broiler.*fn2 He planned to leave the company, which was then struggling for survival, in order to start his own business and to obtain certification for his products, all with the cooperation of the company's then-owner, Mr. Robert Spenuzza.

When LV Associates, Inc. took over Royal Range of California, Inc. in 2003, its new owner, Mr. Vasan, acknowledged Gonzales's rights with respect to these products. Although Gonzales had planned to leave Royal Range's employ, Vasan induced Gonzales to stay on and help the ailing company recover. In exchange, LV Associates promised to help Gonzales to set up his own company, to manufacture the products, and to obtain the certifications required in order to market them for his own benefit.*fn3

Gonzales did stay on with Royal Range, successfully generating substantial additional sales for the company, and earning (but not receiving) substantial commissions. In the meantime, LV Associates helped Gonzales set up and operate his own company, Quantum. Vasan became an officer and director of Quantum, LV Associates' accountant handled all Quantum's financial accounting and transactions, and LV Associates acted as Quantum's agent with respect to licensing and certification. Vasan also provided Gonzales with documents indicating the transfer of certifications for Gonzales's vertical broiler from LV Associates to Quantum, and showing Quantum's ownership of the product design.

After having performed his part of the bargain for a few years, and after leaving Royal Range, however, Gonzales was told that the products' certifications had not been transferred to Quantum, and that they belonged to Royal Range, not Gonzales. And LV Associates did not heed Gonzales's requests for return of all of Quantum's books and records. It turned out that LV Associates had obtained the certifications in its own name, and was secretly selling the products (perhaps under changed model numbers) as its own.

During the six-day trial LV Associates denied and sought to impeach most of Quantum's evidence. At the trial's conclusion, the jury returned a general verdict in Quantum's favor on the complaint, awarding Quantum $1 million in damages and rejecting LV Associates' cross complaint.*fn4 Judgment was entered on July 14, 2010, and notice of its entry was filed and served August 9, 2010. On August 24, 2010, LV Associates filed its notice of intention to move for a new trial, and its motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict. After denial of the post-trial motions on October 5, 2010, LV Associates filed its timely notice of appeal from the judgment and denial of its motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict on November 3, 2010.*fn5

LV Associations makes three contentions on appeal:

(1) that the trial court erred by excluding evidence that Mr. Gonzales had suffered a felony conviction;

(2) that the trial court erred by denying LV Associates' post-trial motions for new trial and judgment notwithstanding the verdict due to their noncompliance with rule 3.113(b) of the California Rules of Court; and

(3) that the trial court erred by precluding LV Associates from impeaching Gonzales at trial with answers he had provided during discovery to a form interrogatory.

LV Associates has failed to demonstrate that the trial court erred with respect to these issues, or that if it did err, the error resulted in prejudice requiring reversal. We therefore affirm the ...


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