October 08, 2013

Court Rules Against Visitors Bureau in Lawsuit

Daily Pilot
by Bradley Zint
October 8, 2013

An Orange County Superior Court jury has rejected the Costa Mesa Visitor and Conference Bureau’s $5.1-million lawsuit against an Irvine-based marketing firm, according to court records.
The bureau alleged a breach of contract in the July 2012 lawsuit, saying HyperDisk Marketing billed the bureau for services that it didn’t perform, such as website design, marketing and consulting. It sought to recover $100,000 for the services and $5 million in punitive damages.
The jury issued its ruling Oct. 3, according to court records.
HyperDisk’s attorney, Alan Greenberg of Costa Mesa-based Greenberg Gross LLP, said the contention was over an unwritten agreement between his client and the bureau. The old management was happy with HyperDisk’s services, which were provided on a flat monthly fee, Greenberg said.
The marketing firm started working with the bureau in 2006 and toward the end of the agreement was being paid $14,800 per month, he said.
“Everyone was very happy with the arrangement until new management came in and took over the bureau in late 2010,” Greenberg said. “The people who took over did not appreciate the nature of the unwritten contract as basically being a flat-fee arrangement that covered a whole bunch of services.”
Former bureau officials, including Diane Pritchett — who is now executive director of South Coast Metro Alliance — testified to the quality of HyperDisk’s work and the nature of the agreement. Those testimonies probably helped sway the jury in his client’s favor, Greenberg said.
“The case really had no merit to it in the first place, so the jury was really able to see that,” Greenberg said, adding that bureau’s lawsuit “really was a slaughtering of tax money.”
“At the end of the day, they have nothing to show for it,” Greenberg said, “except for having spent a lot of money and squandering taxpayer money.”
Bureau President Paulette Lombardi-Fries and marketing manager Kim Glen were not immediately available for comment Tuesday afternoon since they were in transit to China for a bureau business trip.
Other HyperDisk clients include Sony, Newport Beach’s visitor bureau and Toshiba.
Costa Mesa’s visitors bureau broke its contract with HyperDisk in 2011.

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