Missakian v. Amusement Indus., Inc., 69 Cal. App. 5th 630 (2021)

Former in-house counsel Craig Missakian sued his former employer, Amusement Industry, Inc., based on an alleged oral promise to pay him a bonus and a share of recovery from real estate litigation that was pending in New York, which ultimately settled for $26 million.  At trial, the jury found that Amusement had breached the oral contract with Missakian and awarded him $2.25 million and, for a failure to pay the monthly bonus, an additional $275,000.  The jury also entered a special verdict in favor of Allen Alevy (founder of the company) but against Amusement on a fraud claim, awarded Missakian $750,000 in compensatory damages and $1.75 million in punitive damages against Amusement.  The Court of Appeal reversed the judgment on the oral contract claim based upon Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 6147, which requires the specifics of a contingency fee agreement to be in writing signed by both parties.  As for the promissory fraud claim, the Court held that the jury entered two inconsistent verdicts (one in favor or Alevy and the other against Amusement) and ordered a new trial on that claim.