An attempt by the SF Weekly to overturn a $20-plus million verdict awarded to the San Francisco Bay Guardian appears to be in jeopardy. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, a three-judge appellate panel appeared to be more sympathetic to arguments made by the Guardian’s lawyer during oral arguments last Friday. The Guardian contends that the SF Weekly is attempting to rewrite California law in getting the huge verdict thrown out.
The Guardian won the verdict in 2008 after a jury concluded that the SF Weekly sold ads at well below cost for years, forcing the Guardian to do the same and to lose millions of dollars. In appealing the case, the SF Weekly has contended that California law should be aligned with federal law, which makes the rights of consumers paramount, and noted that selling ads at below cost helped consumers. But the Guardian countered that the California legislature specifically sought to protect the rights of small businesses as well as consumers. According to the Chron, at least two of the three appellate judges appeared to agree with the Guardian.
In separate court action, the Guardian also prevailed in its attempt to get a court-appointed receiver to assess the finances of the SF Weekly and its parent company, New Times, to start payment on the jury’s verdict. That process is going forward despite the ongoing appeal because the SF Weekly and New Times failed to post a bond with the court.
The Guardian also has won the right to begin collecting half of the SF Weekly’s monthly gross revenues, as well as money the SF Weekly receives from subleasing its South of Market offices. The Guardian also is continuing in its attempts to force New Times' parent company, Village Voice Media, to begin paying the verdict as well.