Funimation Files Motion to Recover Attorney's Fees for Vic Mignogna's Lawsuit (Update)
posted on by Jennifer Sherman
Funimation filed a motion with the Tarrant County District Court on Monday for reasonable attorney's fees, costs, and sanctions related to voice actor Vic Mignogna's lawsuit against voice actresses Monica Rial, Jamie Marchi, Rial's fiance Ron Toye, and Funimation. The company requested US$168,941 for reasonable attorney's fees and US$7,504 for costs and expenses. Funimation further requested conditional appellate feels of US$50,000 for appeal, $25,000 for filing a petition for review, and an additional $25,000 if the petition for review is granted but relief is denied. The motion also requested sanctions of at least US$25,000 "to deter [Mignogna] from filing similar lawsuits in the future."
The motion argued that Funimation is entitled to recover its attorney's fees and costs from Mignogna under the Texas Citizens Participation Act (TCPA). The motion included copies of invoices that detail the requested fees and costs.
Rial, Marchi, Toye, and Funimation filed a motion on October 24 to dismiss Mignogna's appeal for review of the Tarrant County District Court's decision to dismiss Mignogna's claims against the defendants.
A hearing to decide the attorney fees, costs, and other expenses owed by Mignogna is set for November 21. Judge John P. Chupp will oversee the hearing.
Judge Chupp of the Tarrant County District Court dismissed 17 of Mignogna's claims between two separate rulings on September 6 and October 4. Mignogna's remaining case had alleged that Rial and Toye engaged in defamation and civil conspiracy against the Fullmetal Alchemist voice actor and that anime licensing company Funimation defamed him.
The court found that all causes of action against all defendants asserted by Mignogna were based on, related to, or were in response to the defendants' right to free speech, the right to petition, or the right to association under the TCPA, the state's measure to protect against SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) lawsuits. In addition, communications related to Mignogna's causes of action related to a public concern, and the communications involved allegations of conduct by Mignogna that relate to health and safety, environmental, economic, or community well-being. The court also found that Mignogna had failed to establish, by clear and specific evidence, a prima facie case for each element of defamation, tortious interference with existing contracts, tortious interference with prospective business relations, and civil conspiracy against all defendants, as well as vicarious liabilty against Funimation.
When a defendant successfully invokes the TCPA during a lawsuit, the plaintiff must pay court costs, attorney fees, and other expenses resulting from defending against the lawsuit. The court must also issue a fine to the plaintiff that is "sufficient to deter the party who brought the legal action from bringing similar actions..."
Judge Chupp dismissed all of Vic Mignogna's case against voice actress Jamie Marchi on September 6 as well as Mignogna's case of tortious interference of existing contracts and tortious interference of business relations allegations against Rial and Toye on September 6. Chupp also dismissed Mignogna's allegations that Funimation participated in tortious interference and civil conspiracy on September 6.
Mignogna is represented by Ty Beard of Beard Harris Bullock Hughes and An Lee Hsu of the Martinez Hsu law firm. Marchi was represented by Sam Johnson of Johnson Sparks. Rial and Toye were represented by J. Sean Lemoine and Ethan Minshull of Wick Phillips, Casey S. Erick of Cowles & Thompson, and Andrea Perez of Carrington, Coleman, Sloman & Blumenthal. Funimation was represented by John Volney of Lynn Pinker Cox & Hurst.
Update: Rial and Toye jointly filed a brief in support of sanctions and attorneys' fees on Monday. The brief requested US$259,713.04 in attorneys' fees already incurred, US$11,980.10 in expenses already incurred, and US$11,250.00 in anticipated attorneys' fees through the date of the hearing. Additionally, the brief listed conditional attorneys' fees to the Court of Appeals for US$55,000.00, at the petition for review for US$12,500.00, at the merits briefing stage before the Texas Supreme Court for $22,500.00, and at oral argument and completion of the proceedings before the Texas Supreme Court for US$15,000.00. The brief argued that a sanction in the case should range from US$100,000 to US$260,000. Source: Brief in Support of Sanctions and Attorneys' Fees
Similarly, Marchi filed a motion to determine sanctions and attorney's fees on Monday. The motion requested reasonable attorney's fees of $48,137.50 and costs of $354.01. The motion also asked for contingent attorney's fees of US$37,500 if there is an appeal to the Court of Appeals, plus an additional US$45,000.00 for a possible appeal to the Texas Supreme Court. The motion further argued that an appropriate sanction in this case is at least US$50,000 and would account for Mignogna's "GoFundMe war chest" crowdfunding campaign that has raised US$258,210 as of press time. Source: Motion to Determine Sanctions and Attorney's Fees
The total of Funimation, Rial, Toye, and Marchi's requested attorney's fees and costs listed above — excluding conditional fees and contingent fees — is US$507,879.55. The total sanctions the defendants requested account for at least an additional US$175,000.
Beard's law firm Beard Harris Bullock Hughes was listed under that name as recently as Friday, but the name now appears as "Beard Harris Bullock Christie" on the firm's official website. The firm's Facebook page was updated with the new name within the past 24 hours. Bryan Hughes is a Texas state senator who was the co-sponsor of this year's bill that limited TCPA's scope. The bill went into effect on September 1, after Mignogna filed his case, and the case is therefore still under the former TCPA law. Source: Beard Harris Bullock Hughes (cached website) via @renfamous, @ljmontello
Rial and Toye also filed a reply on Tuesday in support of the motion to compel deposition and documents of Chris Slatosch, founder of Kameha Con. The defense in the case questioned whether Mignogna, Slatosch, and voice actor Chuck Huber appeared in front of Beard on August 30 when certain documents related to the case were notarized. The defense alleges that Beard and co-counsel Jim E. Bullock participated in illegal conduct. Source: Reply in Support of Motion
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