Despite almost a decade of litigation, Long Beach whalewatching company wins $0 in damages, $0 in attorneys’ fees and $0 is disgorgement of profits from its Newport Beach competitors. Plantiffs Harbor Breeze Corporation and LA Waterfront Cruises LLC … for the third time in almost ten years, sued their competitors, Newport Landing Sportfishing Inc. and Davey’s Locker Sportfishing Inc. (and in this last lawsuit, added Ocean Explorer Inc and Freelance Sportfishing Inc.) for false and misleading advertising. After bringing a failed contempt proceeding against Newport Landing in 2014 in state court, Harbor Breeze filed a new lawsuit in September 2017 in federal court. Harbor Breeze’s initial attempt essentially to shut down Newport Landing with an injunction failed; and the case proceeded to discovery and trial.
Harbor Breeze, estimating its damages to be in excess of $15 million, spent over $2 million on attorneys’ fees, expert witnesses and other legal costs in the two years this litigation played out. However, after five days, a Los Angeles jury was unpersuaded, and it awarded Harbor Breeze $0 in damages and $0 in disgorgement profits. Harbor Breeze then petitioned the federal judge for a review of the jury’s award, and additionally, sought $1.5 million in attorneys’ fees. All of Harbor Breeze’s post-trial motions were denied.
The only thing Harbor Breeze received after an almost two-year legal battle and spending millions of dollars, was a very limited injunction (similar to the one already in place from the 2011 state court action) that requires Newport Landing to include language in its own advertisements that “all cruises depart from Newport Beach” (a phrase already contained in almost all of Newport Landing’s websites since at least 2015). The injunction also requires defendants to disclose the full ticket prices, inclusive of fees, on their website and advertisements (a practice defendants had previously committed to implement).
The federal judge’s own words summarize this case and its result best: “the fact that [Harbor Breeze] [has] spent eight years litigating related issues in both state and federal court, does not make this an exceptional case … [Harbor Breeze] failed to prove that defendants’s false advertising was willful. [Harbor Breeze’s] lack of proof of damages also proved to be a fundamental problem.”
This letter was edited for brevity and solely reflects the position of its author – the staff at Newport Landing Sportfishing. Publication of this letter does not represent an endorsement or accuracy of the content.