Miller Barondess Wins Federal Court Jury Defense Verdict on Behalf of Motown Legend Smokey Robinson

August 16, 2023

Sasha Frid

Los Angeles, CA—(BUSINESS WIRE) Sasha Frid and David Schecter, partners with Miller Barondess, LLP, scored a major federal jury trial win for the legendary Smokey Robinson.  Following a three-day federal trial, the jury ruled in favor of Smokey, rejecting his former manager’s bid for almost $2 million (with interest) in commissions on Smokey’s concert and touring business. 

In 2016, Eric Podwall, Smokey’s ex-manager, sued the entertainer for alleged unpaid commissions.  The basis for Podwall’s claim was that Smokey signed a management agreement that entitled the ex-manager to commissions on Smokey’s very successful concert and touring business.  At trial, Frid and Schecter were able to convince the jury that the agreement did not entitle the ex-manager to commissions and that Podwall did not do his job.  During a two-hour grueling cross-examination by Frid, Podwall was forced to make key admissions that undermined his legal claims, including that he did nothing to generate or further Smokey’s concert and touring business. 

The trial culminated when Smokey took the witness stand.  During his testimony, Smokey spent a significant amount of time detailing a historic career that saw him win just about every major music industry honor.  His testimony included tales of growing up on the same street as Diana Ross, helping his best friend Berry Gordy start Motown Records in Detroit, and writing some of the most iconic songs of our time.  Smokey told the jury that the management agreement was not intended to cover his concerts and tours, which he has been performing since before Podwall was born. 

The jury agreed and rejected the claim that Podwall was owed a penny more in touring commissions.  They awarded Podwall $2,000 for a commission on an album advance that Smokey admitted was not paid because he believed the record company was going to pay it. It was an inconsequential amount and not a big issue at trial. 

Per Sasha Frid, counsel for Smokey Robinson and co-founding partner of Miller Barondess, LLP: “This is a great result and victory for Smokey.  The jury did its job and got it right. Smokey is not only a great artist, but he is also a man of integrity who honors his contracts.  Here, he didn’t owe millions, as Podwall claimed; and refused to be taken advantage of by his former manager.  We are honored to represent him.”  

About Sasha Frid:

Sasha Frid, co-founding partner of Miller Barondess, LLP and the head of the firm’s entertainment practice, is recognized as a top litigator and represents some of the biggest names in entertainment.  His tenacity is matched only by his rigorous preparation—both key to his unrivaled success before juries and arbitration panels throughout California and the country.

About David Schecter:

David Schecter, partner with Miller Barondess, LLP, is a litigator and trial lawyer who handles complex entertainment, business, and intellectual property disputes.  He has substantial experience representing high-profile clients in jury trials in state and federal courts across California.  David has also represented clients in numerous appeals in the U.S. Supreme Court, Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and California Courts of Appeal. 

About Miller Barondess, LLP:

Miller Barondess is a 43-lawyer firm in Los Angeles specializing in litigation, trial, and appellate work in California and around the country. The firm represents clients in a wide range of sectors, including intellectual property, technology, real estate, healthcare, securities, entertainment and media, sports, consumer products, insurance, retail, environmental, licensing and branding, financial services, mergers and acquisitions, and government. With a reputation for victories in “bet-the-company” cases, the firm is often hired to “save the day” before trial.