The Los Angeles Times has been awarded slightly more than $266,000 by an arbitrator in its lengthy dispute with photographer David Strick, according to a court document obtained by TheWrap.
The award accounts for attorneys'' fees and court costs incurred by The Times in its legal battle with Strick, which began in May 2011, when Strick filed suit against the paper.
The case was decided in June, when retired judge Peter D. Lichtman, the arbitrator in the matter, dismissed Strick's claims.
"Judge Lichtman properly found that the Times was entitled to recover the substantial cost it incurred in defending against Mr. Strick's meritless lawsuit, and recognized that the conduct of Mr. Strick's counsel contributed to the high cost of this litigation," Kelli Sager, who represented the paper in the matter, told TheWrap in a statement.
Strick began providing photographs for the Times in 2007. The Times chose not to pick up his option in May 2010, but continued to use the photographs that Strick had taken while under contract to the newspaper. Strick attempted to block the Times from doing so, claiming that he owned the copyright to the photographs. The paper refused, citing a Services Agreement that Strick had entered into.
While the agreement between Strick and the Times called for a "quick and efficient resolution" of all disputes, Strick chose to sue in U.S. District Court rather than pursue arbitration.
"For reasons which remain inexplicable, claimant (Strick) chose to abandon and distance himself from the controlling licensing agreement as well as the agreed upon dispute resolution mechanisms contained therein," Lichtman wrote in his award decision. "Importantly, Strick did not just abandon the contract; rather, he affirmatively chose to pursue a path that would trigger the very relief that he now wishes to oppose. Strick repeatedly asserted that the claims he wished to pursue and those identified in the District Court action are copyright in nature and as such were not and could not have been intended to be part of the licensing agreement as those terms were written ... Again, the licensing agreement does not provide any restriction as to the nature of the disputes or controversies. Strick was free to pursue his claims of copyright infringement in the arbitration forum; however, he chose not to."
Lichtman also noted in his decision that Strick had missed the 90-day statute of limitations to pursue arbitration once a claim is made, noting that a formal claim for grievance was made by Strick's attorney, Karen Moskowitz in a Sept. 8, 2010, email, giving Strick until Dec. 8, 2010, to demand arbitration.
"This was not done," Lichtman wrote in his decision. "Instead, Strick chose to ignore the agreed-upon resolution method and file his District Court complaint. In so doing, Strick gambled that a motion to compel arbitration would either not be pursued or granted."
A federal judge ordered the case into arbitration in August 2011.
Moskowitz told TheWrap that Strick plans to appeal the decision.