A judge denied a motion Monday by Adam Carolla’s attorneys to disqualify a key witness scheduled to testify against him during next week’s trial stemming from a lawsuit filed by a former producer, who alleges the broadcast personality ended their partnership without justification and owes him money.
However, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael Johnson left open the possibility he could change his mind, depending on what Carolla’s lawyers learn while deposing the witness, Robert Wunderlich, later today. Wunderlich is plaintiff Donny Misraje’s financial expert.
Lawyers for Carolla stated in court papers how they found out last week while deposing Misraje’s brother, Jack Misraje, that he turned over tax returns and other confidential financial information regarding Carolla to his attorneys and to Wunderlich.
Carolla’s lawyers allege an agreement by Donny Misraje’s lawyers to also represent his brother was a “complete runaround” on Johnson’s April order denying their motion to review tax information from Carolla and his podcasting company, Lotzi Digital Inc.
Jack Misraje also produced similar sensitive information regarding Jimmy Kimmell, Carolla’s attorneys stated in their court papers. Kimmell is a friend of Carolla’s, but is not a party in the case.
Jack Misraje, a real estate agent, had the financial records of Carolla and Kimmell because he had business relationships with both, according to Carolla’s attorneys’ court papers.
But in his ruling, Johnson said Carolla’s lawyers made a broad request to Jack Misraje to bring all records he had concerning their client to the deposition. He also said Carolla’s lawyers could have avoided the problem by asking the broadcaster what documents Jack Misraje possessed and to exclude those they deemed confidential.
Donny Misraje attended today’s hearing. The other plaintiffs in the lawsuit are Misraje’s wife, Kathee Schneider-Misraje, and his cousin, technology expert Sandy Ganz.
Donny Misraje and Carolla were friends dating back to their high school days. Misraje persuaded Carolla to try the podcast format in February 2009 after his syndicated radio talk show on CBS Radio was cancelled, according to the breach-of-contract suit, filed in January 2013 against the 50-year-old Carolla and Lotzi Digital.
“The Adam Carolla Show” podcast was launched in 2009 and they entered into a partnership to launch Misraje’s “vision to build a ‘multimedia podcasting network,” the suit states.
Misraje left a $231,000 a year job in the entertainment business to work full time on the new venture, the suit states. His wife alleges she spent 40- 60 hours weekly on the project and Sandy Ganz says he rebuilt the entire website from scratch.
Both Misrajes say that during this time, they contributed $10,000 in capital to the venture, used up their accrued health insurance hours earned through a trade union and went without pay for more than a year, living off a loan placed against their home in the expectation they would receive partnership payments.
The relationship went bad in 2011 when the three plaintiffs sought to enforce their rights to equal decision-making, according to the complaint, which portrays Carolla as “increasingly dictatorial and threatening.”
Carolla ultimately ordered Misraje to stop traveling to the live show, put him on a three-month probation and threatened to exclude live show revenue from the partnership income, the suit states.
The Misrajes and Sandy Ganz were fired in September 2011, the suit states.
Carolla filed a countersuit asking a judge to decide whether the partnership and an employment agreement ever existed between Carolla and Donny Misraje. Carolla’s lawyers maintain Misraje never accepted an offer for a 30 percent share of the podcast’s profits, “but instead began to imply he was an owner of the podcast.”
Jury selection is scheduled to begin Sept. 2.
—City News Service