Dallas lawyer Brian Loncar, well known in Texas for his “Strong Arm” television commercials, and Colorado firm Franklin D. Azar & Associates have settled litigation they filed on June 7 against a Texas video producer responsible for crafting the plaintiffs’ memorable television commercials.
The settlement ensures the exclusivity of Loncar advertisements produced by Jerry Bryant and his companies for Texas markets, and Franklin D. Azar & Associates commercials for Colorado markets.
“We anticipate no further problems . . .,” says Dale Jefferson, a partner in Houston’s Martin, Disiere, Jefferson & Wisdom who represents Loncar and the Azar firm, about the June 13 settlement with Bryant, IMGRP Productions Inc., PI Advertising Inc., Law Ads and Jerry Bryant’s brother Kody Bryant, who Bryant says works for the production companies.
“It’s all settled. It’s all done. He’s still my client and I’m still making ads for them,” Jerry Bryant, who owns the production companies, says about the settlement with Loncar and the Azar firm. “It was really more of a misunderstanding.”
While the parties say they have come to an agreement, the allegations in Brian Loncar, et al. v. IMGRP Productions Inc., et al. tell an interesting story about how lawyers market themselves on television.
Loncar alleged in the petition filed in the 298th District Court in Dallas County that his 2009 agreement with Bryant and his companies called for territorial exclusivity in all markets in Texas except for Amarillo. That meant that Bryant and his companies would not make advertisements for competing lawyers in those markets. [See the petition.]
Jefferson says exclusivity is important because each production company has a different style for commercials, and lawyers want their commercials to be unique in their markets.
Loncar alleged in the petition that he eventually decided to enter the Amarillo market, and the defendants notified him they had severed an existing relationship with an Amarillo attorney. Loncar alleged he paid the defendants $55,000 for the exclusivity in Amarillo and paid about $225,000 to Amarillo television stations to place his ads. However, Loncar alleged, the $225,000 was a “wasted” payment because “the growth of business in the Amarillo area was awful, and could only be explained by Defendants’ marketing efforts for another lawyer to the detriment of Brian Loncar.”
Loncar alleged he learned that the defendants were still doing business with the Amarillo lawyer after Loncar had paid for exclusivity.
Bryant says in an interview there was “no overlapping” of advertising campaigns in Amarillo.
Similarly, the Azar firm alleged that its agreement with Bryant and his companies called for exclusivity in Colorado, but the defendants created the production company Law Ads, and used it to prepare a “substantially similar advertising campaign” for another lawyer in Colorado.
Loncar and the Azar firm’s causes of action against the defendants included fraud, intentional and/or negligent misrepresentation, breach of the duty of good faith and fair dealing, breach of contract and conversion. The plaintiffs sought unspecified actual and punitive damages as well as a court order to force Bryant and his companies to turn over all work product, including ads that already had been produced and paid for.
The same day the parties settled, they also asked 298th District Judge Emily Tobolowsky to approve an agreed temporary injunction restraining the defendants and all employees and agents from breaching their marketing agreements with the plaintiffs, and from refusing to turn over any work product, including already completed commercials, to the plaintiffs.
As of Texas Lawyer ‘s presstime, Loncar had not been nonsuited and Tobolowsky had not ruled on the agreed temporary injunction.
Loncar and Franklin Azar each did not return a telephone call seeking comment.
Jefferson says terms of the settlement are confidential, but he notes the plaintiffs and defendants renegotiated the contracts — that still contain exclusivity provisions — and the business relationship will continue.