Katsoris et al. v. WME IMG, LLC et al
OPINION AND ORDER re: 66 MOTION to Compel Arbitration filed by Nick Katsoris, The Loukoumi Make A Difference Foundation, Inc. For the foregoing reasons, Plaintiffs' motion to compel arbitration against WME IMG, LLC and IMG Productions, LLC is granted, and this action is stayed against all Defendants. (As further set forth in this Opinion and Order.) (Signed by Judge Ronnie Abrams on 2/27/2017) (mro)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
ELECTRO NI CALLY FILED
DATE FILED: 02/27/2017
NICK KA TSORIS and THE LOUKOUMI
MAKE A DIFFERENCE FOUNDATION,
No. 16-CV-0135 (RA)
OPINION AND ORDER
WME IMG, LLC; IMG PRODUCTIONS,
LLC; and VIACOM d/b/a NICKELODEON
RONNIE ABRAMS, United States District Judge:
Plaintiffs Nick Katsoris and the Loukoumi Make a Difference Foundation, Inc. bring this
copyright infringement action against Defendants WME IMG, LLC, IMG Productions, LLC, and
Viacom Inc. Before the Court are Defendants' motion to dismiss Plaintiffs' Second Amended
Complaint and Plaintiffs' motion to compel arbitration. For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiffs'
motion to compel arbitration against WME IMG and IMG Productions, LLC (collectively, "IMG")
is granted, and Plaintiffs' claims against all Defendants are stayed pending arbitration.
A. The Parties
Nick Katsoris is the author of seven children's books featuring "Loukoumi," who has been
described as "a fluffy little lamb that just wants to make the world a better place." SAC iJiJ 42-43.
The Loukoumi books "teach children life lessons including believing in and pursuing their
dreams, doing good deeds, and preventing bullying." SAC iJ 42. In May 2014, Katsoris formed
the Loukoumi Make a Difference Foundation (the "Foundation"), a non-profit organization based
in New York.
48. The Foundation's mission is to "teach children to make a
difference in their lives and the lives of others." SAC if 26.
IMG is "a global leader in sports, events, media, and fashion." SAC if 61. In 2014, WME
acquired IMG to form WME IMG. SAC
Plaintiffs allege that WME IMG, LLC is the
"successor-in-interest or parent of or otherwise responsible for satisfying any judgment against
IMG Productions, LLC." SAC if 30.
Viacom Inc. is a global mass-media company with interests in several media and
entertainment properties, including Nickelodeon and Nick Jr. SAC
if 31; see also
Mem. in Supp. of Mot. to Dismiss at 3 (ECF No. 30).
B. Make a Difference with Loukoumi Television Special
In 2012, Katsoris approached IMG to represent him in pitching a reality television series
based in part on the Loukoumi book series. SAC
Katsoris drafted a proposal for the show,
which explained that "[i]n this television segment kids would live their Dream Days by following
a different career choice in each episode." SAC iii! 80-81. Katsoris and IM G pitched the proposal
to television networks, including PBS Kids and Sprout. SAC
Those pitches were not
successful, and IMG suggested that Katsoris improve the pitch materials and self-finance or seek
sponsors to attract network attention. See SAC iii! 82, 84-85.
On May 28, 2014, the Foundation and IMG Productions, LLC entered into a work-for-hire
agreement, under which IMG Productions, LLC agreed to produce a television special tentatively
titled "Make a Difference with Loukoumi TV Special" (the "TV Special"). SAC if 90, Ex. I. The
agreement provided that "[a]ll services rendered by [IMG Productions, LLC] pursuant to this
Agreement ... including ... all notes, ideas, 'gags,' suggestions, plots, characters, logos, titles,
themes, songs, products and/or stories ... have been and/or will be solely created by [IMG
Productions, LLC] as a 'work made for hire."' SAC Ex. I § 8. The agreement specified that the
Foundation would be "deemed ... the sole and exclusive owner ... of all rights of every kind or
nature ... including, but not limited to, all copyrights [and] trademarks" in the material. SAC Ex.
The agreement also contained an arbitration provision. SAC Ex. I § 12(b). Under this
Any dispute arising under this Agreement will be first referred for resolution to the
respective designees of [the Foundation] and [IMG Productions, LLC]. To the
extent that the designees of the parties cannot resolve the dispute within five (5)
business days of referral to them, the parties agree to try in good faith to settle the
dispute by non-binding mediation under the Commercial Mediation Rules of the
American Arbitration Association before resorting to arbitration. . . . In the event
a dispute arises under this Agreement which cannot be resolved through mediation,
such dispute will be submitted to arbitration and resolved by a single arbitrator ...
in accordance with the Commercial Arbitration Rules of the American Arbitration
Association then in effect.
SAC Ex. I§ 12(b).
The TV Special was produced in the summer of 2014. SAC ,-i 93. Hosted by professional
chef Cat Cora, the TV Special lasts approximately thirty minutes and features multiple segments.
See SAC ,-r 95. 1 Most relevant to this dispute, the TV Special includes a segment in which Sophia,
a child who aspires to be a Broadway star, is introduced to Constantine Maroulis, an actor known
for his role in the Broadway musical Rock of Ages. See id. Sophia and Maroulis discuss the
importance of hard work, visit a Broadway theater, and perform a duet to "Don't Stop Believin. "'
The TV Special is available at Make a Difference with Loukoumi Television Special, Youtube
(Nov. 7, 2014 ), https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=MAL6ZdH-S_ o&app=desktop.
See SAC if 95.
Id. In October 2014, Fox broadcast stations aired the TV Special nationwide. SAC if 8. 2
On July 22, 2015, Plaintiffs presented the TV Special and other pitch materials to
representatives of Nickelodeon or Nick Jr. SAC
Plaintiffs' proposal, Nickelodeon rejected it. See SAC
After initially expressing interest in
138. Specifically, on August 27,
2015, Nickelodeon representative Elly Kramer sent Katsoris an e-mail, explaining "[ w ]e very
much appreciate what you've created and love the idea of encouraging kids to make a difference"
but "[u]nfortunately the project does not support what we're currently looking for." SAC
C. All In with Cam Newton
On June 13, 2015, Nickelodeon announced a development deal with IMG for a "brandnew reality show" featuring NFL quarterback Cam Newton.
112, Ex. L.
announcement indicated that the "currently untitled unscripted television series will help kids find
their dreams, from an aspiring Cirque du Soleil performer to a meteorologist." SAC Ex. L.
On September 22, 2015, Nickelodeon issued a press release announcing the greenlight of
its "new adventure-filled docu-series I Wanna Be (Working Title)," hosted by Newton. SAC Ex.
Q. The press release explained:
In each episode Newton will step into the lives of two different kids and take them
on a journey that will push them closer to fulfilling their dreams. From decorating
award-winning cakes, to landing a spot on a Broadway stage, kids will be mentored
by experts and supported by Newton as he cheers them on, and participates in the
action, every step of the way.
Id. The show began airing in 2016 under the title All In with Cam Newton. See SAC if 149.
The United States Copyright Office issued a copyright registration for the TV Special, titled Make
a Difference with Loukoumi, effective January 8, 2015. See SAC iJ 96, Ex. J.
Each episode of All In with Cam Newton follows a similar structure. Approximately 23
minutes in length, each episode begins with an uplifting introduction by Cam Newton, who tells
the audience, "I believe every kid has a dream inside them." See, e.g., McNamara Deel. in Supp.
of Mot. to Dismiss ("McNamara Deel.") Ex. E (ECF No. 58-5). Newton meets with two children
per episode and discusses their career objectives. See, e.g., id. The children's goals range from
starring on Broadway to playing in the WNBA. See McNamara Deel. Ex. F. (ECF No. 58-6);
McNamara Suppl. Deel. Ex. I (ECF No. 77-3). Newton then introduces each child to an expert in
the field she hopes to enter. See, e.g., id. The expert speaks with the child about her goals and
works with the child to improve her skills. See, e.g., id. Along the way, Newton motivates the
child and provides comic relief. See, e.g., id. Each child's segment concludes with a performance
in which the child demonstrates the skills she has learned. See, e.g., id.
D. Procedural History
On November 24, 2015, Plaintiffs sent a cease-and-desist letter to Nickelodeon, Viacom
and IMG. SAC
if 151. On December 15, 2015, Plaintiffs sent a letter to IMG, referencing the
arbitration provision in the work-for-hire agreement and requesting dates for mediation. SAC Ex.
R (ECF No. 52-18). On December 23, 2015, IMG allegedly sent Plaintiffs a letter indicating that
IMG would mediate the dispute and would propose mediation dates in January 2016. See Pis.'
Letter of May 16, 2016, at 2 (ECF No. 47).
On January 7, 2016, Plaintiffs filed a complaint in this action. See Compl. (ECF No. 1).
Plaintiffs asserted seven causes of action, including claims under the Copyright Act, the Lanham
Act, and state law. See Compl. iii! 155-232. Citing the work-for-hire agreement with IMG
Productions, the complaint also sought an "injunction in aid of arbitration under the Federal
Arbitration Act" against IMG. Compl. iii! 222-32.
On January 11, 2016, four days after filing their complaint, Plaintiffs e-mailed IMG to
request dates for mediation. See Pls.' Letter of May 25, 2016 Ex. A (ECF No. 51-1). IMG
responded the next day, indicating that it would be "happy to discuss" mediation. See id. On
January 13, 2016, Viacom sent Katsoris an e-mail agreeing to "hold the action in abeyance pending
[Plaintiffs'] anticipated mediation with IMG." Id. Viacom also told Katsoris that it "has no
mediation agreement with [Plaintiffs] and will not be participating in any such mediation." Id. 3
In February 2016, approximately one month after the complaint was filed, Plaintiffs and
IMG exchanged several e-mails discussing a mediation schedule and potential mediators. See id.
IMG stated that it was "happy to have a mediation and would participate in one in good faith," and
that, "despite a bit of a scheduling jam on [its counsel's] side of things," it was "happy to try to get
a mediation on the calendar." Id. IMG further suggested that the parties "set a date for mediation
and do a stipulation and proposed order that [IMG] can respond to the complaint 30 days after the
mediation." Id. During this period, IMG also proposed mediators to Plaintiffs. Id.
On March 1, 2016, Plaintiffs filed a formal request for mediation against IMG Productions
with the American Arbitration Association (AAA). See Pls.' Letter of May 16, 2016 Ex. C (ECF
On March 16, 2016, however, Plaintiffs sent IMG an e-mail memorializing a
conversation in which IMG had informed Plaintiffs that, in its view, neither mediation nor
arbitration was required. See Pls.' Letter of May 25, 2016 Ex. A (ECF No. 51-1). Yet the next
day, the Court endorsed the parties' stipulation, which provided that "Plaintiffs and the WME
Defendants have agreed to explore the potential for mediation of their dispute" and holding
On March 11, 2016, Viacom sent Plaintiffs a letter identifying alleged defects in their complaint.
See Fink Deel. Ex. 1 (ECF No. 86-1).
Defendants' time to respond to the complaint in abeyance. See Order (Mar. 17, 2016) (ECF No.
25). On April 1, 2016, Plaintiffs filed their first amended complaint, which added new allegations
and again sought an "injunction in aid of arbitration." See First Am. Compl.
ifif 227-37 (ECF No.
On April 29, 2016, the AAA advised Plaintiffs that IMG had refused to engage m
mediation. See Pls.' Letter of May 16, 2016 Ex. B (ECF No. 47-2). Plaintiffs immediately notified
IMG, calling the AAA's statement "a complete surprise" and asking IMG to confirm that they had,
in fact, refused to mediate. Id. Three days later, on May 2, 2016, Defendants moved to dismiss
the First Amended Complaint, see ECF Nos. 29, 33, arguing among other things that Plaintiffs
could not claim copyright protection in "common ideas of transformation, dreams, and goal-setting
and use of scenarios involving celebrities and guest stars," Viacom Mem. in Supp. of Mot. to
Dismiss at 12 (ECF No. 30).
On May 16, 2016, Plaintiffs submitted a letter to the Court stating that they "cross-move
to compel arbitration" between the Foundation and IMG. See Pls.' Letter of May 16, 2016 (ECF
No. 47). Plaintiffs' letter also requested a stay of the action pending arbitration or, in the event the
Court denied their request for a stay, additional time to file a Second Amended Complaint. See id.
On May 19, 2016, Plaintiffs filed their Second Amended Complaint. See SAC (ECF No. 52). On
May 27, 2016, the Court held a conference, during which the Court instructed Plaintiffs to file a
formal motion to compel arbitration, supported by briefing, no later than June 27, 2016. See Tr.
of May 27, 2016 Conf. at 7:5-6 (ECF No. 63).
On June 13, 2016, Defendants moved to dismiss the Second Amended Complaint. See
ECF Nos. 53, 56. On June 27, 2016, Plaintiffs (1) filed a motion to compel arbitration, ECF No.
66, (2) filed an opposition to Defendants' motions to dismiss, ECF No. 71, and (3) voluntarily
dismissed their third and fourth claims, ECF No. 65.
The Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) provides that an arbitration agreement "shall be valid,
irrevocable, and enforceable, save upon such grounds as exist at law or in equity for the revocation
of any contract." 9 U.S.C. § 2. Enacted to "revers[ e] centuries of judicial hostility to arbitration
agreements," Bird v. Shearson Lehman/Am. Express, Inc., 926 F.2d 116, 119 (2d Cir. 1991)
(citation omitted), the FAA "embodies the national policy favoring arbitration and places
arbitration agreements on equal footing with all other contracts," Buckeye Check Cashing, Inc. v.
Cardegna, 546 U.S. 440, 443 (2006). "This policy is founded on a desire to preserve the parties'
ability to agree to arbitrate, rather than litigate, disputes." Nicosia v. Amazon.com, Inc., 834 F.3d
220, 229 (2d Cir. 2016) (alteration omitted) (quoting Schnabel v. Trilegiant Corp., 697 F.3d 110,
118 (2d Cir. 2012)). "But the FAA 'does not require parties to arbitrate when they have not agreed
to do so."' Id. (quoting Schnabel, 697 F.3d at 118); accord AT & T Techs. v. Commc 'ns Workers
of Am., 475 U.S. 643, 648 (1986) ("[A]rbitration is a matter of contract and a party cannot be
required to submit to arbitration any dispute which he has not agreed so to submit." (citation
Under the FAA, a party to an arbitration agreement may petition a district court for "an
order directing that . . . arbitration proceed in the manner provided for in such agreement." 9
U.S.C. § 4. "In resolving a claim that an action must be arbitrated pursuant to an arbitration
agreement, [a district court] must determine: (1) whether the parties entered into an agreement to
arbitrate; (2) if so, the scope of that agreement; (3) if federal statutory claims are asserted, whether
Congress intended those claims to be nonarbitrable; and (4) if some, but not all, claims are subject
to arbitration, whether to stay the balance of the proceedings pending arbitration." Begonja v.
Vornado Realty Tr., 159 F. Supp. 3d 402, 408-09 (S.D.N.Y. 2016) (citing Guyden v. Aetna, Inc.,
544 F.3d 376, 382 (2d Cir. 2008)).
"In deciding motions to compel, courts apply a 'standard similar to that applicable for a
motion for summary judgment.'" Nicosia, 834 F.3d at 229 (quoting Bensadoun v. Jobe-Riat, 316
F.3d 171, 175 (2d Cir. 2003)). A court must therefore "consider all relevant, admissible evidence
submitted by the parties" and "draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the non-moving party."
Id. (citations omitted).
Defendants argue that Plaintiffs have waived any right to arbitrate this dispute. See IMG
Opp'n Mem. at 8-12 (ECF No. 85); Viacom Opp'n Mem. at 19-22 (ECF No. 87). The Court
The "strong federal policy favoring arbitration ... ha[s] led to its corollary that any doubts
concerning whether there has been a waiver are resolved in favor of arbitration." Leadertex, Inc.
v. Morganton Dyeing & Finishing Corp., 67 F.3d 20, 25 (2d Cir. 1995). As the Second Circuit
has repeatedly emphasized, "waiver of the right to arbitration is not to be lightly inferred."
Thyssen, Inc. v. Calypso Shipping Corp., S.A., 310 F .3d 102, 104-105 (2d Cir. 2002) (per curiam)
(citation omitted); see also PPG Indus., Inc. v. Webster Auto Parts, Inc., 128 F.3d 103, 107 (2d
Cir. 1997). But "there is nothing irrevocable about an agreement to arbitrate,'' and "under a variety
of circumstances one party may waive or destroy by his conduct his right to insist upon
arbitration." Baker & Taylor, Inc. v. AlphaCraze.Com Corp., 602 F.3d 486, 490 (2d Cir. 2010)
(per curiam) (citation and alterations omitted).
"In determining whether a party has waived its right to arbitration by expressing its intent
to litigate the dispute in question, [the Court] consider[ s] the following three factors: '(1) the time
elapsed from when litigation was commenced until the request for arbitration; (2) the amount of
litigation to date, including motion practice and discovery; and (3) proof of prejudice."' La.
Stadium & Exposition Dist. v. Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Inc., 626 F.3d 156, 159 (2d
Cir. 2010) (quoting Louis Dreyfus Negoce SA. v. Blystad Shipping & Trading Inc., 252 F.3d 218,
229 (2d Cir. 2001)). "The key to a waiver analysis is prejudice." Thyssen, 310 F.3d at 105. In
the Second Circuit, prejudice "refers to the inherent unfairness-in terms of delay, expense, or
damage to a party's legal position-that occurs when the party's opponent forces it to litigate an
issue and later seeks to arbitrate that same issue." PPG Indus., 128 F.3d at 107 (quoting Doctor's
Assocs., Inc. v. Distajo, 107 F.3d 126, 134 (2d Cir. 1997)).
The Second Circuit has generally found that a party waives its right to arbitrate "when it
engages in protracted litigation," such as "extensive pre-trial discovery" and "substantive motions"
over the course of several months before seeking arbitration. Id. at 107-08. In PPG Industries,
Inc. v. Webster Auto Parts Inc., 128 F.3d 103 (2d Cir. 1997), for example, the Second Circuit
concluded that a plaintiff waived its right to arbitrate by "engaging in discovery" and "filing
substantive motions" in a related action for "approximately five months" before moving to compel
arbitration, which "evidenced a preference for litigation that supports a finding of waiver." Id. at
108-09. In Leadertex, Inc. v. Morganton Dyeing & Finishing Corp., 67 F.3d 20 (2d Cir. 1995),
the Second Circuit similarly found that a party had waived its right to arbitration by submitting
and amending several pleadings, engaging in an "energetic pursuit discovery," and waiting seven
months-until "the eleventh hour, with trial imminent"-to seek enforcement of an arbitration
agreement. Id. at 26. More recently, in Louisiana Stadium & Exposition District v. Merrill Lynch,
Pierce, Fenner & Smith Inc., 626 F .3d 156 (2d Cir. 2010), the Second Circuit held that a plaintiff
waived its right to arbitrate by waiting eleven months to move to compel arbitration while
defendants filed procedural motions, submitted a lengthy "letter detailing perceived deficiencies"
in the complaint, and "began work on a motion for judgment on the pleadings," though discovery
had not yet begun. Id. at 159-60.
In this case, Defendants have not shown that Plaintiffs waived their right to arbitrate. First,
no time at all elapsed between Plaintiffs' initiation of this action and their request for arbitration:
Plaintiffs' complaint sought an "injunction in aid of arbitration" against IMG under the FAA. See
Compl. iii! 222-32. Moreover, in the weeks prior to filing their complaint, Plaintiffs contacted
IMG to express their interest in mediation-a prerequisite to arbitration under the arbitration
agreement-and to request dates on which IMG could participate in such mediation. See SAC Ex.
R. Once the complaint was filed, Plaintiffs continued to consistently pursue arbitration. Indeed,
only four days after filing the complaint, Plaintiffs again asked IMG to schedule mediation. See
Pls.' Letter of May 25, 2016 Ex. 1 (ECF No. 51-1 ). And over the next six weeks, Plaintiffs engaged
in several discussions with IMG about the mediation schedule and potential mediators. Id. When
those discussions were not fruitful, Plaintiffs filed a formal request for mediation with the AAA.
See Pls.' Letter of May 16, 2016 Ex. C (ECF No. 47-3). Thus, rather than sitting on their right to
arbitrate, Plaintiffs sought arbitration before filing their complaint, in the complaint itself, and
within days of initiating this action.
Defendants correctly note that Plaintiffs did not file a formal motion to compel until June
27, 2016, more than five months after filing their complaint. See Mot. to Compel Arbitration (ECF
No. 66). In determining whether Plaintiffs waived their right to arbitrate, however, it is not clear
that Plaintiffs' delay in seeking arbitration should be measured from their filing of the motion to
compel, rather than their prior requests arbitrate in their complaint, in letters and e-mails to IMG,
or in their May 16, 2016 letter to the Court indicating that they "cross-move to compel arbitration."
ECF Nos. 47, 51-1; see, e.g., Tokio Marine & Fire Ins. Co. v. M/V Saffron Trader, 257 F. Supp.
2d 651, 655 (S.D.N.Y. 2003) (finding that "no time elapsed from the commencement of the
litigation and the time when arbitration was requested," where the plaintiff requested to arbitrate
"at the outset of litigation in the Complaint" even though "the actual motion to compel arbitration
was submitted five months" later). Even if it were, this five-month period is not sufficient,
standing alone, to infer waiver of arbitration. See, e.g., PPG Indus., 128 F.3d at 108 (holding that
a "five-month delay, by itself' between "the time defendants asserted arbitrable claims and [the
plaintiff] filed its motion to compel" is "not enough to infer waiver of arbitration"); LG Elecs., Inc.
v. Wi-LAN USA, Inc., No. 13-CV-2237 (RA), 2015 WL 4578537, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. July 29, 2015)
(finding that "a four month delay in seeking arbitration is, by itself, insufficient to establish
waiver"); Satcom Int'l Grp. PLC v. Orbcomm Int'/ Partners, L.P., 49 F. Supp. 2d 331, 339
(S.D.N.Y. 1999) (finding that a period of"approximately four months" between "the filing of this
action and the filing of plaintiffs demand for arbitration" was "not, by itself, long enough to infer
waiver"), a.ff'd, 205 F .3d 1324 (2d Cir. 1999); cf La. Stadium, 626 F .3d at 159 (finding waiver
where "[ e]leven months elapsed" between a plaintiffs filings in state and federal court and its
motion to compel arbitration).
Moreover, Plaintiffs' five-month delay in filing a motion to compel arbitration is
reasonable in light of the terms of the arbitration agreement. Under the agreement, the parties were
required to attempt to resolve their dispute first through their designees and second through nonbinding mediation before submitting their dispute to arbitration. See SAC Ex. I § 12(b). Plaintiffs
attempted to initiate non-binding mediation-a condition precedent to arbitration-in a letter to
IMG before filing their complaint, see SAC Ex. R, and in a formal request for mediation on March
1, 2016, see Pis. Letter of May 16, 2016 Ex. C (ECF No. 47-3). Under these circumstances,
Plaintiffs' decision to wait until after IMG formally refused mediation to file their motion to
compel arbitration was consistent with the structure of the arbitration agreement, which
contemplates non-binding mediation as a precursor to arbitration. And once Plaintiffs learned that
IMG had denied their request for mediation with the AAA, they moved to compel arbitration,
submitting a letter to the Court "cross-mov[ing] to compel arbitration" less than three weeks later.
Pis.' Letter of May 16, 2016 (ECF No. 47). Thus, throughout the five-month period between the
commencement of this litigation and Plaintiffs' motion to compel arbitration, Plaintiffs diligently
pursued arbitration according to the terms of their arbitration agreement.
Second, "the amount oflitigation to date" does not weigh in favor of a finding that Plaintiffs
waived their right to arbitrate. La. Stadium, 626 F.3d at 159. Although the parties have briefed
outstanding motions, they have not conducted any discovery. See LG Elecs., Inc. v. Wi-Lan USA,
Inc., 623 F. App'x 568, 570 (2d Cir. 2015) (summary order) (finding that a party did not waive its
right to arbitrate where "no discovery took place and only a few motions were filed" before it
requested arbitration); cf PPG Indus., 128 F.3d at 107 (finding waiver based in part on extensive
pre-trial discovery); Leadertex, 67 F .3d at 26 (finding waiver in light of a party's "energetic pursuit
of discovery"). Moreover, Plaintiffs did not initiate any motion practice before moving to compel
arbitration. To be sure, this litigation heated up after Plaintiffs moved to compel arbitration:
Plaintiffs opposed Defendants' motions to dismiss, see ECF No. 71, moved to strike portions of
Defendants' submissions, see ECF No. 91, requested discovery, see ECF No. 91, and submitted
briefing and affidavits in support of their motion to compel arbitration, see ECF Nos. 67, 68, 69,
96, 97. At the time that Plaintiffs moved to compel arbitration, however, they had not yet filed or
responded to any substantive motion in this action.
Defendants stress that Plaintiffs nonetheless filed three complaints, which prompted
Defendants to send Plaintiffs a deficiency letter and file two motions to dismiss. See ECF Nos.
29, 33, 53, 56, 86-1. Defendants are right that, in considering whether a party waived its right to
arbitrate, "it is significant that [the party] is a plaintiff, rather than a defendant, moving for
arbitration," for the party's decision to file its lawsuit may be "inconsistent with its contractual
right to arbitration." La. Stadium, 626 F.3d at 160 (quoting PPG Indus., 128 F.3d at 109). On the
other hand, courts in this district have found that, under certain circumstances, a party's "initial
decision to initiate both arbitral and judicial proceedings" may be "perfectly reasonable" where a
party seeks "to protect [its] rights by commencing both kinds of proceedings." Jock v. Sterling
Jewelers, Inc., 564 F. Supp. 2d 307, 309, 311(S.D.N.Y.2008). In Freeman v. Complex Computing
Co., 931 F. Supp. 1119 (S.D.N.Y. 1996), ajf'd in part, rev'd in part on other grounds, 119 F.3d
1044 (2d Cir. 1997), for example, the district court found that a plaintiff did not waive its right to
arbitrate by commencing a lawsuit, where the plaintiff had an express agreement to arbitrate with
one defendant, but not with the two other defendants, and "sought a single forum in which he could
be sure of the right to proceed against all parties." Id. at 1119. The same rationale may have been
behind Plaintiffs' decision to initiate this action: although Plaintiffs knew that they could seek to
arbitrate the dispute against IMG, they lacked an express arbitration agreement with Viacom and
sought to resolve the dispute against all parties in a single action. Moreover, Plaintiffs' decision
to amend their complaint does not clearly indicate a preference for litigation over arbitration
because each of Plaintiffs' amended complaints sought "an injunction in aid of arbitration" against
IMG. See FAC ,-i,-i 227-37; SAC ,-i,-i 229-39. Thus, although Plaintiffs' commencement of this
litigation "gives pause," Freeman, 942 F. Supp. at 1119, it is not sufficient to infer waiver of their
right to arbitrate.
Finally, Defendants have not demonstrated sufficient "proof of prejudice" to support a
finding of waiver. La. Stadium, 626 F.3d at 159. Defendants' substantive responses to Plaintiffs'
three complaints have no doubt been costly-indeed, IMG suggests that Defendants have incurred
"tens of thousands of dollars in fees and costs" in preparing and filing their motions to dismiss.
IMG Opp'n Mem. at 10 (ECF No. 85). It is also true, as Defendants argue, that Defendants would
suffer some substantive prejudice if compelled to arbitrate, for their motions to dismiss have
provided Plaintiffs a view of the legal arguments they would likely assert in arbitration. See, e.g.,
La. Stadium, 626 F.3d at 160. This prejudice stems, in part, from Plaintiffs' dual-track approach
to resolving this dispute: Defendants were required to spend money and reveal their legal positions
because Plaintiffs chose to pursue arbitration in tandem with litigation. But this prejudice is also
a result of IMG's delay in submitting to arbitration. After stating that it was "happy to have a
mediation" in February 2016-approximately one month after Plaintiffs filed their complaintIMG refused Plaintiff's formal mediation request with the AAA and filed a motion to dismiss on
May 2, 2016. See ECF Nos. 33, 47-2, 51-1. 4 Defendants could have avoided the costs oflitigating
this action had IMG followed through with its initial agreement to mediate, and had Viacom then
held the action in abeyance as it had agreed to do. Thus, the prejudice that Defendants may now
suffer if compelled to arbitrate, for which they are at least partly responsible, is not sufficient to
find that Plaintiffs waived their right to arbitrate.
In sum, the Court concludes that Plaintiffs have not waived their right to arbitration.
Viacom, for its part, agreed to "hold the action in abeyance pending [Plaintiffs'] anticipated
mediation with IMG" on January 13, 2016, see ECF No. 51-1, yet moved to dismiss Plaintiffs' First
Amended Complaint and Second Amended Complaint on May 2, 2016 and June 13, 2016, respectively, see
ECF Nos. 29, 56.
Defendants next argue that, even if Plaintiffs preserved their right to seek arbitration, this
dispute is not arbitrable. See IMG Opp'n Mem. at 12-16 (ECF No. 85); Viacom Opp'n Mem. at
16-19 (ECF No. 87). The Court concludes that the arbitrability of Plaintiffs' claims against IMG
is for the arbitrator to decide but that Viacom may not be compelled to arbitrate on the basis of the
Foundation's arbitration agreement with IMG Productions.
1. IMG Defendants
"The law generally treats arbitrability as an issue for judicial determination 'unless the
parties clearly and unmistakably provide otherwise."' NASDAQ OMX Grp., Inc. v. UBS Secs.,
LLC, 770 F.3d 1010, 1031 (2d Cir. 2014) (quoting Howsam v. Dean Witter Reynolds, Inc., 537
U.S. 79, 83 (2002)). The Second Circuit has held that when the parties explicitly incorporate into
an arbitration agreement the AAA's Commercial Arbitration Rules, including a rule which
empowers the arbitrator to rule on her own jurisdiction, "the incorporation serves as clear and
unmistakable evidence of the parties' intent to delegate such issues to an arbitrator." Contee Corp.
v. Remote Sol., Co., 398 F.3d 205, 208 (2d Cir. 2005). Thus, "a signatory to a contract containing
an arbitration clause and incorporating by reference the AAA Rules" may not "disown its agreedto obligation to arbitrate all disputes, including the question of arbitrability." Id. at 211 (emphasis
in original); see also, e.g., Gwathmey Siegel Kaufman & Assocs. Architects, LLC v. Rales, 518 F.
App'x 20, 21 (2d Cir. 2013) (summary order) ("[B]y incorporating the American Arbitration
Association ('AAA') rules the parties agreed to have the arbitrators decide arbitrability."); Arshad
v. Transp. Sys., Inc., 183 F. Supp. 3d 442, 447 (S.D.N.Y. 2016).
The arbitration provision of the work-for-hire agreement between the Foundation and IMG
Productions provides, in relevant part, that any dispute arising under the agreement that cannot be
resolved through mediation "will be submitted to arbitration and resolved by a single
arbitrator ... in accordance with the Commercial Arbitration Rules of the American Arbitration
Association then in effect." SAC Ex. I § 12(b). Rule 7 of the Commercial Arbitration Rules
provides that "[t]he arbitrator shall have the power to rule on his or her own jurisdiction, including
any objections with respect to the existence, scope or validity of the arbitration agreement or to
the arbitrability of any claim or counterclaim." AAA, Commercial Arbitration Rules & Mediation
Procedures 7(a). Thus, the incorporation of the AAA Rules into the work-for-hire agreement
serves as clear and unmistakable evidence that the Foundation and IMG Productions, LLC agreed
to delegate any questions of arbitrability to the arbitrator. See Contee, 398 F.3d at 208.
IMG argues, however, that WME IMG cannot be compelled to arbitrate because it was not
a party to the work-for-hire agreement. See IMG Opp'n Mem. at 16-18 (ECF No. 85). This
argument is not persuasive. "In order to decide whether arbitration of arbitrability is appropriate,
a court must first determine whether the parties have a sufficient relationship to each other and to
the rights created under the agreement." Contee, 398 F.3d at 209. In Contee, for example, the
Second Circuit held that arbitration of arbitrability was appropriate on a claim asserted by one of
the signatories' corporate successors, where there was an "undisputed relationship" between the
non-signatory successor corporation and its predecessor and where "the parties continued to
conduct themselves as subject to [the agreement] regardless of the change in corporate form." Id.
Because these factors demonstrated a "sufficient relationship" between the signatory corporation
and its successor, the Second Circuit held that the question of whether the non-signatory successor
may claim rights under the agreement was for the arbitrator to decide. Id.
Similarly here, there is a "sufficient relationship" between IMG Productions, LLC and
WME IMG to delegate the question of WMG IM G's rights under the work-for-hire agreement to
the arbitrator. Id. Plaintiffs allege that WMG IMG is the "successor-in-interest or parent of or
otherwise responsible for satisfying any judgment against IMG Productions, LLC." SAC
Plaintiffs also allege that "IMG was acquired by WME to form WME IMG" in 2014. SAC if 61.
IMG claims that Plaintiffs' allegations are "superficial at best," but it does not genuinely dispute
the allegations or provide any evidence suggesting that WME IMG, LLC and IMG Productions,
LLC lack the corporate relationship Plaintiffs describe. IMG Opp'n Mem. at 18. Moreover, as in
Contee, the two IMG entities have "continued to conduct themselves as subject to [the agreement]
regardless of the change in corporate form." 398 F.3d at 209. For example, Plaintiffs have
provided evidence, in the form of a declaration by Katsoris, that an IMG representative who
negotiated the work-for-hire agreement met with Katsoris in 2015-a year after WME allegedly
acquired IMG-to discuss the TV Special, and that this same representative shared the TV Special
with "his colleagues at IMG's parent, WME IMG." Katsoris Deel.
irir 43-44 (ECF No. 67). 5
While the Court need not decide whether WME IMG, LLC is, in fact, bound by the arbitration
agreement signed by IMG Productions, LLC, there is a "sufficient relationship" between the two
entities on the current record to delegate this question to the arbitrator. Contee, 398 F.3d at 209;
see also Lismore v. Soeiete Generate Energy Corp., No. 11-CV-6705 (AJN), 2012 WL 3577833,
at *5 (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 17, 2012) (finding that arbitrability was delegated to the arbitrator under
Contee, where the agreement incorporated the AAA Rules and there was an undisputed
relationship between the plaintiff and the parent company of a signatory to the arbitration
In addition, during the course of this litigation, WME IMG and IMG Productions have conducted
themselves as though they are both subject to the agreement by, for example, stipulating that the two
entities-labeled "together, the 'WME Defendants"'-would "explore the potential for mediation of their
dispute" with Plaintiffs. See Order (Mar. 16, 2016) (ECF No. 25).
IMG also suggests that Katsoris may not assert a right to arbitrate under the agreement
because he did not sign the agreement. Under Contee, however, Katsoris and IMG plainly have a
"sufficient relationship" to refer the question of Katsoris's rights under the work-for-hire
agreement to the arbitrator. Contee, 309 F.3d at 209. Katsoris negotiated the work-for-hire
See, e.g., Katsoris Deel. iii! 15-37 (ECF No. 67); see also SAC
Moreover, Katsoris approached IMG in 2012-two years before the Foundation was formed-to
pitch the idea of a reality television show and traveled with IMG producers to pitch the show to
television networks. See Katsoris Deel. if 10; see also SAC iii! 78-82. Katsoris also visited IMG's
offices to develop marketing materials based on the TV Special, which was produced pursuant to
the work-for-hire agreement. See Katsoris Deel.
if 44; SAC if 103. There can also be no question
of Katsoris's relationship to the Foundation: he is the Foundation's founder and president. SAC
iii! 27, 48. Under these circumstances, the Court concludes that, although Katsoris is not a
signatory to the work-for-hire agreement, his relationships to the signatories of the arbitration
agreement and to the rights created under the agreement are sufficient for the arbitrator to decide
the arbitrability of his claims. See Contee, 309 F.3d at 209.
Plaintiffs argue that Viacom may also be compelled to arbitrate on the basis of the work-
Cf JLM Indus., Inc. v. Stolt-Nielsen SA, 387 F.3d 163, 178 (2d Cir. 2004) (finding that nonsignatory parent companies were bound by arbitration agreements signed by their subsidiaries, where the
parent and subsidiary companies had a "close relationship" and where claims against the parent companies
were "undeniably intertwined" with the terms of the agreements containing arbitration provisions); Astra
Oil Co. v. Rover Navigation, Ltd., 344 F.3d 276, 280 (2d Cir. 2003) (holding that a non-signatory company
could be compelled to arbitrate under an agreement entered by a company with the same corporate parent,
where evidence suggested a "close relationship" among the entities and that signatory "treated the [nonsignatory] as if it were a signatory").
for-hire agreement. See Pls.' Mem. at 14-16 (ECF No. 69). 7 The Court disagrees. As an initial
matter, Viacom rightly notes that it did not sign the work-for-hire agreement and is not mentioned
therein. See SAC Ex. I. Viacom is thus correct that this is not a case in which a non-signatory is
"linked textually" to an arbitration agreement and may therefore be bound by its terms. Choctaw
Generation Ltd. P'ship v. Am. Home Assur. Co., 271 F.3d 403, 407 (2d Cir. 2001).
The Second Circuit has, however, "made clear that a nonsignatory party may be bound to
an arbitration agreement if so dictated by the 'ordinary principles of contract and agency.'"
Thomson-CSF, SA. v. Am. Arbitration Ass 'n, 64 F .3d 773, 776 (2d Cir. 1995) (quoting McAllister
Bros., Inc. v. A & S Transp. Co., 621F.2d519, 524 (2d Cir. 1980)). More specifically, the Circuit
has "recognized five theories for binding nonsignatories to arbitration agreements: 1) incorporation
by reference; 2) assumption; 3) agency; 4) veil-piercing/alter ego; and 5) estoppel." Id.
In this case, Plaintiffs advance an estoppel argument. See Pls.' Mem. at 15-16 (ECF No.
"Estoppel of an unwilling non-signatory requires a showing ... that the non-signatory
'knowingly exploited' the benefits of an agreement with an arbitration clause and derived a 'direct
benefit' from the agreement." AICO Int'/, E.C. v. Merrill Lynch & Co., 98 F. App'x 44, 46 (2d
Cir. 2004) (summary order) (quoting MAG Portfolio Consultant, GMBH v. Merlin Biomed Grp.,
268 F.3d 58, 61-62 (2d Cir. 2001)). "The benefits must be direct-which is to say, flowing directly
from the agreement." MAG Portfolio, 268 F.3d at 61. In Deloitte Noraudit AIS v. Deloitte Haskins
& Sells, US., 9 F.3d 1060 (2d Cir. 1993), for example, a foreign accounting firm received a
Plaintiffs do not argue that the question of whether Viacom may be bound by the arbitration
agreement is for the arbitrator to decide. To the extent that Plaintiffs do make this argument, the Court
rejects it: as discussed below, Viacom lacks a "sufficient relationship" to the parties and to the rights created
under the work-for-hire agreement to infer that arbitration of the arbitrability of Plaintiffs' claims against
Viacom is appropriate. See Contee, 398 F.3d at 209.
settlement agreement, which permitted certain parties to use the trade name "Deloitte" and which
required those parties to arbitrate their disputes, and proceeded to use the trade name without
objecting to the terms of the agreement. See 9 F.3d at 1062-64. The Second Circuit held by
"knowingly accept[ing] the benefits of the Agreement" and "fail[ing] to object to the Agreement
when it received it," the firm was "estopped from denying its obligation to arbitrate" under the
agreement despite never having signed it. Id. at 1064; see also Am. Bureau ofShipping v. Tencara
Shipyard SP.A., 170 F.3d 349, 353 (2d Cir. 1999) (holding that yacht owners were estopped from
denying their obligations to arbitrate under an agreement between a shipyard and a yacht inspection
organization, where the owners received "several direct benefits" from the agreement, including
"significantly lower insurance rates" and "the ability to sail under the French flag").
"By contrast, the benefit derived from an agreement is indirect where the nonsignatory
exploits the contractual relation of parties to an agreement, but does not exploit (and thereby
assume) the agreement itself." MAG Portfolio, 268 F.3d at 61. In Thomson-CSP, SA. v. American
Arbitration Ass 'n, 64 F .3d 773 (2d Cir. 1995), for example, two companies entered into an
exclusive supplier agreement, which contained a mandatory arbitration provision. Id. at 775. A
third-party competitor purchased one of the signatory companies with the goal of squeezing the
remaining company out of the market. Id. The non-signatory competitor "benefited" from the
agreement, in that its acquisition of one of the signatory companies allowed it to eliminate the
other as a competitor. See id. at 779. Distinguishing Deloitte, the Second Circuit held the nonsignatory's benefit was nonetheless too "indirect" to support an estoppel theory that would compel
it to arbitrate, as this benefit did not "derive directly" from the agreement itself-as the
accounting firm's use of a trade name did in Deloitte-but rather flowed indirectly from its
acquisition of one of the agreement's signatories. Id.; see also MAG Portfolio, 268 F.3d at 63.
The Second Circuit also has explained that a non-signatory cannot be compelled to arbitrate
under an estoppel theory where "the parties to the agreement with the arbitration clause would not
have originally contemplated the non-signatory's eventual benefit." Life Techs. Corp. v. AB Sciex
Pte. Ltd., 803 F. Supp. 2d 270, 276 (S.D.N.Y. 2011) (citing Tencara Shipyard, 170 F.3d at 35153 and Thomson-CSP, 64 F.3d at 778-79). In Ross v. American Express Co., 547 F.3d 137 (2d
Cir. 2008), for example, a group of credit card holders sued their credit card company and the
banks that issued the cards for violating federal antitrust law; the cardholders' agreements with the
issuing banks contained mandatory arbitration clauses but did not mention the credit card company
See 547 F.3d at 139--40. The non-signatory credit card company moved to compel
arbitration, arguing that the cardholders were estopped from avoiding arbitration because their
claims were "intertwined" with their cardholder agreements with the issuing banks. See id. The
Second Circuit rejected that argument, explaining that "the necessary circumstance of some
relation between [the credit card company] and the plaintiffs sufficient to demonstrate that the
plaintiffs intended to arbitrate this dispute with [the credit card company] is utterly lacking here,"
where the credit card company "did not sign the cardholder agreements, it is not mentioned therein
... it had no role in their formation or performance," and it was "not in any in way treat[ ed] ... as
a party to the cardholder agreements." Id. at 146; see also Sokol Holdings, Inc. v. BMB Munai,
Inc., 542 F.3d 354, 361-62 (2d Cir. 2008).
Here, Plaintiffs have not demonstrated that Viacom "knowingly exploited" the work-forhire agreement or derived any "direct benefit" from it. MAG Portfolio, 268 F .3d at 61-62.
Plaintiffs argue that the "direct benefit" to Viacom was receiving the concept of a reality television
series as presented in the TV Special. See Pls.' Mem. at 15-16 (ECF No. 69). Even assuming that
Viacom received the benefit of Plaintiffs' concept and used it as a basis for its own television
series, this benefit does not "flow directly from the agreement." MAG Porifolio, 268 F.3d at 61.
The work-for-hire agreement is, in essence, a production agreement: it addresses how the TV
Special must be produced, not how it is to be distributed, sold, or licensed to third-party television
networks like Nickelodeon. See SAC Ex. I. The agreement sets forth the obligations of IMG, as
producer, but it is silent as to the obligations of any third parties who may wish to acquire rights
in the TV Special IMG produced. See id. Because the scope of the agreement is limited to the
production of the TV Special, and does not extend to distribution of rights to it, it does not address
the very "benefit" Plaintiffs claim that Viacom has received here. Therefore, any benefits that
Viacom derived from the work-for-hire agreement are indirect and do not support a finding that
Viacom is estopped from avoiding arbitration.
Of course, there is some connection between the subject of the work-for-hire agreement
and the benefit Viacom allegedly received: both relate to Plaintiffs' idea for a television series.
But as the Second Circuit has made clear, the question in analyzing estoppel is not whether the
non-signatory has some relationship to the subject matter of an agreement containing an arbitration
provision, but rather whether the benefits the non-signatory receives derive directly from "the
agreement itself." MAG Porifolio, 268 F.3d at 61. In Thomson-CSP, for example, the Second
Circuit rejected an estoppel argument where a third-party competitor benefited from an exclusive
supplier agreement of a company it acquired not because it intended to invoke the agreement or
exploit any benefits provided in the agreement itself-by, for example, "seeking to purchase
equipment" under the supplier agreement-but rather because its ownership of one of the
signatories allowed it to squeeze out a competitor. See 64 F.3d at 779. Similarly here, while the
formation of the work-for-hire agreement resulted in the production of the TV Special, which may
have put Viacom in a better position to distribute a television series, Viacom could not have
obtained this benefit by invoking any rights under the agreement itself. Thus, though the workfor-hire agreement and the benefit Viacom allegedly received both involve a television series, the
link between Viacom's benefit and the agreement itself is too attenuated to estop Viacom from
refusing to arbitrate under it.
While Plaintiffs rely on the Second Circuit's decision in Deloitte in support of their
estoppel argument, see Pls.' Mem. at 14-15, the distinctions between this case and Deloitte are
instructive. In Deloitte, the agreement containing an arbitration provision provided for the use of
the trade name "Deloitte," and an accounting firm was compelled to arbitrate largely because it
received precisely that benefit-the use of the "Deloitte" name. See 9 F.3d at 1064. The analogous
scenario here would be if the agreement set forth the conditions under which a party could use
Plaintiffs' concept in distributing a television show, much like an agreement to use the "Deloitte"
trade name-in that case, the benefit Viacom allegedly received would correspond more directly
to the agreement itself. See id. But the agreement gives no party such a benefit, and it provides
Viacom no opportunity to "exploit" the agreement and claim this benefit for itself.
It is true, as Plaintiffs note, that the work-for-hire agreement indicates that the Foundation
intended to market the TV Special to television networks. Specifically, Section 3 of the agreement
provides that "[i]t is understood and agreed that [the Foundation] is seeking an offer to enter into
a transaction to finance, license, and exhibit and/or distribute a television production or
productions" based on the TV Special.
SAC Ex. I § 3.
The work-for-hire agreement thus
represents one step in the process of accomplishing that goal: IMG's production of the TV Special
would provide Plaintiffs the material they needed to market their proposal for "a television
production or productions." Id. By its terms, however, the agreement is one step removed from
what Plaintiffs claim Viacom did here-exhibiting or distributing a television series based on the
TV Special. See, e.g., SAC iii! 159-64, 172, 175, 178. The agreement could not set forth the terms
under which a network, such as Nickelodeon, could distribute such a television series, as the
agreement was premised on the fact that the material a television network could use to do so did
not yet exist. See SAC Ex. I § 3. Accordingly, despite the agreement's recitation of Plaintiffs'
ultimate objective, any benefits Viacom may have derived from the work-for-hire agreement do
not flow from the agreement itself.
Finally, Plaintiffs have not shown that they and Viacom have a relationship "sufficient to
demonstrate that [they] intended to arbitrate this dispute" with Viacom. Ross, 547 F.3d at 146. As
in Ross, Viacom "did not sign the [work-for-hire] agreement, it is not mentioned therein, and it
had no role in [the agreement's] formation or performance." Id. Even if Plaintiffs and IMG
anticipated showing the TV Special or a portion thereof to Nickelodeon as marketing material, see
if 40 (ECF No.
67), Plaintiffs have provided no evidence that the parties intended
to bind Viacom to the work-for-hire agreement itself. Rather, Plaintiffs' allegations suggest that
they hoped to use the TV Special to form a new agreement with Viacom, under which Viacom
would finance, license, or otherwise distribute a television show based on Plaintiffs' marketing
materials. Thus, Plaintiffs and IMG would have no basis to expect that Viacom would be bound
by this agreement, when they implicitly acknowledged that an agreement with Viacom could only
be formed after they fulfilled their obligations under their work-for-hire agreement.
Accordingly, Viacom may not be compelled to arbitrate Plaintiffs' claims on the basis of
the arbitration provision in the Foundation's work-for-hire agreement with IMG Productions, LLC.
Plaintiffs request that the Court stay this action pending arbitration. Pls.' Mot. at 16-19.
Defendants oppose this request.
The Court concludes that a stay of this action against all
Defendants is appropriate pending Plaintiffs' arbitration with IMG.
The FAA requires a district court, "on application of one of the parties," to stay an action
after determining that "any issue" in the action is "referable to arbitration." 9 U.S.C. § 3. In Katz
v. Cellco Partnership, 794 F.3d 341 (2d Cir. 2015), cert. denied, 136 S. Ct. 596 (2015), the Second
Circuit clarified that "the text, structure, and underlying policy of the FAA mandate a stay of
proceedings when all of the claims in an action have been referred to arbitration and a stay
requested." 794 F.3d at 347. Katz did not explicitly address whether the FAA requires a district
court to stay all proceedings where, as here, fewer than all claims have been referred to arbitration.
See id. at 345 n.6. Prior to Katz, however, the Second Circuit stated that "[t]he decision to stay the
balance of the proceedings pending arbitration is a matter largely within the district court's
discretion to control its docket." Genesco, Inc. v. T Kakiuchi & Co., 815 F.2d 840, 856 (2d Cir.
1987); see also, e.g., White v. Cantor Fitzgerald, L.P., 393 F. App'x 804, 808 (2d Cir. 2010)
(summary order) ("[T]he district court is not required to stay the litigation of the nonarbitrable
claims before it ... pending the outcome of any arbitrated claims."); Chang v. Lin, 824 F.2d 219,
222 (2d Cir. 1987) ("[W]e have previously allowed courts great discretion in staying nonarbitrable
state and federal claims pending arbitration of related claims.").
Thus, whether or not the FAA requires a stay where some but not all claims are referable
to arbitration, a district court may stay proceedings in its discretion. "[D]istrict courts ... may
stay a case pursuant to the power inherent in every court to control the disposition of the causes
on its docket with economy of time and effort for itself, for counsel, and for litigants." WorldCrisa
v. Armstrong, 129 F.3d 71, 76 (2d Cir. 1997). "The Court must consider factors such as the
desirability of avoiding piecemeal litigation and the degree to which the cases necessitate
duplication of discovery or issue resolution." Maritima de Eco logia, S.A. de C. V. v. Sea lion
Shipping Ltd., No. 10-CV-8134 (DLC), 2011 WL 1465744, at *5 (S.D.N.Y. Apr. 15, 2011)
(citation omitted). "A discretionary stay is particularly appropriate where there is significant
factual overlap between the remaining claims and the arbitrated claims." Winter Inv 'rs, LLC v.
Panzer, No. 14-CV-6852 (KPF), 2015 WL 5052563, at *11 (S.D.N.Y. Aug. 27, 2015); see also
Moore v. Interacciones Glob., Inc., No. 94-CV-4789 (RWS), 1995 WL 33650, at *7 (S.D.N.Y.
Jan. 27, 1995) ("It is well-settled that claims are appropriately stayed when they involve common
issues of fact and law with those subject to arbitration or when the arbitration is likely to dispose
of issues common to claims against both arbitrating and non-arbitrating defendants."). "In such
cases, a stay is warranted in part because the prior litigation or arbitration is likely to have
preclusive effect over some or all of the claims not subject to arbitration." Panzer, No. 14-CV6852 (KPF), 2015 WL 5052563, at *11; see CBF Industria de Gusa SIA v. AMC! Holdings, Inc.,
846 F.3d 35, 55 (2d Cir. 2017) ("It is settled law that the doctrine of issue preclusion is applicable
to issues resolved by an earlier arbitration." (citation omitted)).
Here, even ifthe FAA does not require the Court to stay Plaintiffs' claims against Viacom,
the Court concludes that a discretionary stay is warranted. There is significant factual overlap
between Plaintiffs' claims against IMG and those against Viacom.
In particular, Plaintiffs'
copyright infringement claim, and related claim for declaratory judgment, is asserted against all
Defendants. See SAC
iii! 165-184. This claim focuses on the similarity between Plaintiffs'
copyrighted works and Viacom' s allegedly infringing television series. See SAC ii 172. The Court
would duplicate efforts if it were to consider the similarities between these works when the
arbitrator will be tasked with determining the same issue. Moreover, Katsoris's claim against
Viacom for aiding and abetting IMG's breach of fiduciary duty, see SAC
iii! 220-28, will
necessarily involve an inquiry into whether IMG did, in fact, breach a fiduciary duty to Katsoris27
another issue the arbitrator must decide, see SAC iii! 202-19. In light of the factual overlap
between Plaintiffs' non-arbitrable claims against Viacom and their arbitrable claims IMG, the
Court finds it appropriate to stay all proceedings in this action pending arbitration. See, e.g., Winter
Inv'rs, No. 14- CV- 6852 (KPF), 2015 WL 5052563, at *12 (granting a discretionary stay where
the "issues that the arbitration panel will decide ... overlap significantly (if not entirely) with the
issues that this Court would need to reach to adjudicate" non-arbitrable claims); Maritima de
Ecologia, No. 10-CV-8134 (DLC), 2011 WL 1465744, at *5 (staying proceedings that were not
referred to arbitration where the outcome of ongoing arbitration "will have a significant bearing
on this case").
D. Attorneys' Fees and Sanctions
Plaintiffs and IMG request attorneys' fees under 28 U.S.C. § 1927. The Court denies both
The Court may impose sanctions under both 28 U.S.C. § 1927 and its inherent authority.
Section 1927 provides, in relevant part, that any attorney "who so multiplies the proceedings in
any case unreasonably and vexatiously may be required by the court to satisfy personally the
excess costs, expenses, and attorneys' fees reasonably incurred because of such conduct." 28
U.S.C. § 1927. "Imposition of a sanction under§ 1927 requires a 'clear showing of bad faith."'
Oliveri v. Thompson, 803 F.2d 1265, 1273 (2d Cir. 1986) (quoting Kamen v. Am. Tel. & Tel. Co.,
791 F .2d 1006, 1010 (2d Cir. 1986)). A district court may also impose sanctions under its inherent
authority, which includes "the power to assess costs and attorneys' fees against either the client or
his attorney where a party has acted in bad faith, vexatiously, wantonly, or for oppressive reasons."
United States v. Int 'l Bhd. of Teamsters, Chauffeurs, Warehousemen & Helpers ofAm., AFL-CIO,
948 F.2d 1338, 1345 (2d Cir. 1991) (internal quotation marks omitted). Sanctions made pursuant
to either § 1927 or to the court's inherent power are "proper when the attorney's actions are so
completely without merit as to require the conclusion that they must have been undertaken for
some improper purpose such as delay." Oliveri, 803 F.2d at 1273.
Plaintiffs seeks to recover attorney's fees because, in their view, IMG refused to arbitrate
without a legitimate legal basis. See Pls.' Mem. at 20-21 (ECF No. 69). While the Court finds
that IMG was required to arbitrate this dispute, it does not find that IMG's position to the contrary
was "completely without merit." Oliveri, 803 F.2d at 1273. In light of Plaintiffs' decision to
initiate this action, IMG may have reasonably, if erroneously, determined that Plaintiffs had
waived their right to arbitrate and decided to litigate instead. Accordingly, Plaintiffs have not
made a "clear showing of bad faith" and are not entitled to sanctions against IMG. Id.
IMG argues that the Court should sanction Plaintiffs because of their delay in moving to
compel arbitration. IMG Opp. Mem. at 19. As discussed above, Plaintiffs' delay in moving to
compel arbitration was reasonable in light of the terms of the arbitration agreement and Plaintiffs'
efforts, through communications with IMG, the Court, and the AAA, to initiate mediation. IMG's
request for sanctions is therefore denied.
For the foregoing reasons, Plaintiffs' motion to compel arbitration against WME IMG,
LLC and IMG Productions, LLC is granted, and this action is stayed against all Defendants.
February 27, 2017
New York, New York
Ro nie Abrams
United States District Judge
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