An actress who also is a successful real estate agent is suing a former personal assistant for allegedly using client information for her own financial benefit after leaving her job with the plaintiff in 2017.
Cindy Ambuehl’s Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit against Christina Collins, who now works for Hilton & Hyland Real Estate Inc., alleges breach of contract, violation of the state’s trade secrets act and interference with prospective business advantage.
The complaint filed Tuesday seeks unspecified damages.
The 55-year-old Ambuehl portrayed Jerry Seinfeld’s girlfriend Sophie on the 1998 episode of “Seinfeld” “The Burning,” and had a recurring role on the CBS action drama “JAG” from 2000-03 as the television producer girlfriend of U.S. Navy Cmdr. Harmon Rabb (David James Elliott).
Ambuehl is “arguably Los Angeles’ most sought-after real estate professional in one of the world’s most competitive luxury real estate markets,” the suit states.
Ambuehl became successful by developing skills as an agent for buyers and sellers and by being a respected senior partner with the top real estate agencies in the city, according to the suit.
For 26 years, Ambuehl marketed her services to a network of wealthy home buyers and sellers as well as investors and developers, and she closed nearly $160 million in sales in 2016, according to her suit.
Ambuehl has been recognized for her achievements in the entertainment trade publications Variety and The Hollywood Reporter, the suit states.
Ambuehl hired Collins as an assistant in 2015, before the defendant acquired a real estate license, the suit states.
The agreement between them prohibited Collins from using confidential information for anyone’s benefit other than that of the plaintiff and additionally forbade her from giving any of the secret details to third parties, the suit states.
Collins’ responsibilities included property showings, being present at open houses and providing office management, the suit states.
Later, Ambuehl had to rely more heavily on Collins as the plaintiff dealt with her parents’ failing health. Ambuehl hired a second woman, Brenna Bloom, to help Collins, the suit states.
Collins resented having to do extra work and became increasingly dissatisfied with working for Ambuehl, the suit states. Bloom told Ambuehl that Collins believed her work involved being more than an assistant and that she deserved to be made a buyer’s agent, the suit states.
Ambuehl alleges Collins misappropriated the plaintiff’s proprietary information, including client names, contacts, leads and other information in order to compete with Ambuehl, who took more than 10 years to gather such data.
With the client information, Collins was able to begin her real estate sales agent career the day after she left the plaintiff’s employment, the suit states.
“Collins was actually using Ms. Ambuehl’s list of clients secretly while still working as her assistant in the month leading up to her resignation,” according to the suit.
After leaving Ambuehl in 2017, Collins immediately created her own website, reflecting both Ambuehl’s sales volume and her own, the suit states.
“Christina Collins is in no doubt as to whether any information received in the course of her affiliation with Cynthia Ambuehl constitutes confidential information owned and is the property of Cynthia Ambuehl,” the suit alleges.
A review of Ambuehl’s computer and other office equipment later revealed that Collins accessed and downloaded secret information from the plaintiff’s computer systems and deleted all computer messages the defendant sent during the last four months with Ambuehl to try and cover her tracks, the suit stated.
Collins also coerced IT workers to wipe clean all data on the office computer provided her by Ambuehl, the suit states.
Collins told City News Service “there is absolutely no merit to Cindy’s claims I misappropriated confidential information or otherwise used such information to “advance my own real estate practice.”
“In fact, there is no merit to any of her claims and simply put I never misappropriated or improperly utilized anything allegedly confidential for my own benefit before or after I left The Agency,” Collins wrote in an email.
“Cindy’s allegations (now nearly 3 years old) are not only frivolous but have been debunked repeatedly and Cindy knows that. Unfortunately, in my view, these allegations and complaint are the result of Cindy’s anger and resentment stemming from my decision to stop working for her and branch out on my own.
“She has essentially been on a vendetta since that time to not only hurt me personally but professionally. I’ve tried to move past this and hoped with time that Cindy would move on and I really do hope that one day she finds positivity and peace in her life, but I will defend my reputation and livelihood if Cindy continues down this path.”
Collins also wrote that through her attorney, she has asked Ambuehl to remove Hilton & Hyland as a defendant in the suit “as they have absolutely nothing to do whatsoever with what alleged issues Cindy has with me.”