Appellate Court Affirms $1.6 Million Judgment In Favor of Writer/Producer Fred Fontana and Producer R.J. Louis, Against Self-Professed Psychic Carmen Harra
On October 19, 2018, the Court of Appeal of the State of California, handed an appellate victory to McPherson Rane LLP, by affirming the denial of a request to vacate an arbitration award, which included a combined $1.6 Million judgment entered in favor of clients Fred Fontana (professional screenwriter/producer), and R.J. Louis (producer) against self-styled intuitive psychic counselor and author, Carmen Harra and her entity, Carmen Harra Enterprises, Inc.
The underlying controversy involved a dispute over the writing and production of a movie based on Harra’s life, as well as over the use and return of $1.1 Million of investment funds provided to Harra for the film by another party to the case, Otmar Sibilo.1 The cross-claims by Fontana and Louis stemmed from Harra’s failure and refusal to pay them for their respective writing and production services provided on the film project. Although Harra and her entity were the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, following numerous and repeated violations of discovery orders issued by the arbitrator, McPherson Rane, on behalf of Fontana and Louis, brought successful motions for terminating sanctions against Harra, resulting in all of her affirmative claims being dismissed, as well as evidentiary sanctions being issued against her. Thereafter, Louis and Fontana’s cross-claims for breach of contract and fraud were successfully proven against Harra resulting in a $1.6 Million Arbitration Award, including substantial punitive damages.
Thereafter, Harra filed a Petition to Vacate the Award, which was found to have no merit and denied by the Court. However, Harra subsequently filed an appeal, which McPherson Rane successfully argued was also without merit. In its decision the Court of Appeal held that “Harra’s challenge is nothing more than a claim that the arbitrator erred on the facts and law in imposing discovery sanctions against her. That decision is not reviewable, and she cannot obtain review by recasting it as a ‘refusal of the arbitrators to hear evidence material to the controversy …” The Court of Appeal further noted that the “only case” cited and relied upon by Harra “is readily distinguishable” from this case.
This decision and hard fought victory will mark the end to nearly six years of extremely contentious litigation, including three and a half years of arbitration proceedings.
Read The Decision Here.
1 Notably, the affirmed judgment against Harra also included a $5.1 Million award against Harra in favor of Mr. Sibilo.