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The bi-coastal battle between esports star Turner “TFue” Tenney and his former gaming organization FaZe Clan is slimming down as a California judge has dismissed the professional Fortnite player’s original complaint.
Tenney in May 2019 sued FaZe Clan for allegedly violating California’s Talent Agencies Act, which demands that employment for certain kinds of artists must be procured by an agent. His lawyer Bryan Freedman argued that esports stars are covered by the statute and FaZe was running afoul of it. Tenney also claims his gamer agreement was “grossly oppressive” and FaZe restrained his ability to work, passed on a lucrative brand deal because of a conflict of interest and failed to pay him his share of sponsorship earnings.
FaZe fired back in New York federal court with its own complaint for breach of contract and unjust enrichment. The gaming org claims that Tenney violated their deal by suing in an improper forum, disparaging the organization, stealing trade secrets and trying to poach his former teammates to launch a competitor. It also claims he failed to pay the organization its proper share of his earnings.
For several months the parties fought over which state should be home to their legal battle. FaZe argued Tenney’s gamer agreement demands that any disputes be handled in New York while Tenney argued the contract is void and the case should be tried in California where the TAA applies. L.A. Superior Court Judge Patricia Nieto in December paused the legal fight in her courtroom and, after a change in judicial officers, Judge David Cowan on Friday issued an order dismissing it altogether.
A few weeks ago in New York, U.S. District Court Judge Jed Rakoff denied a motion for summary judgment and moved the dispute closer to trial.
In a statement, Philip Gordon, FaZe Clan’s chief legal officer, said, “We are very pleased with Judge Cowan’s decision to dismiss Turner’s case. This is one of many moments throughout this legal process when the courts have ruled in our favor. We haven’t wanted to argue this in the press because we don’t want to attack Turner. We care about him and our gamers who have been hurt by this process. The reality is we support Turner and invested heavily in his career — we simply want an outcome that is fair. We look forward to continuing the N.Y. case and feel confident in its outcome.”
Tenney’s lawyer Bryan Freedman said in a statement, “Given the court’s favorable findings on the rulings on summary judgment and the upcoming hearing in front of the Labor Commission concerning illegal procurement, there was no need to have the proceeding in state court. All issues will be resolved in the trial in New York and in front of the California Labor Commission. My client is very confident and looks forward adjudicating these issues.”
There is still one active matter on the West Coast: Tenney’s complaint before the California Labor Commissioner regarding the Talent Agencies Act. Rakoff acknowledges he doesn’t currently have jurisdiction over the TAA-related claims, but the rest of the issues are on track for an Oct. 5 trial.
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