Actress Sues Ad Agency for Breach of Contract

In 2009, New York ad agency Levinson Trachtenberg Group contracted with an actress, Elena Aroaz, to appear in a 30 second commercial that advertised the services of a personal injury law firm. The contract stated that Aroaz would be compensated for her time with $600. At the end of shooting, Aroaz received her $600 and went on her way.

In 2012, Aroaz learned that her picture was being used on a billboard in Arizona. She confronted Levinson Tratchenberg Group about the use of her image, and they paid her an additional $1500.

She recently filed a lawsuit in Mahattan Supreme Court against the ad agency claiming that they repeatedly licensed the use of her image, either in the video commercial or still photograph. Aroaz is seeking compensation of nearly $1 million. The legal matter is a testament to some breach of contract issues that commonly arise in the creative world.

Background of the Case

In the commercial, Aroaz plays an injury victim who likens the severe pain of her injuries to a machete coming down on her hand. She winces in pain, then holds up a single finger covered in a Band-Aid to display her true injury – a paper cut. The words flash across the screen, “There are some cases even we can't win.”

The humorous commercial garnered significant attention in the New York area, with even a mention in the New York Times. The commercial, originally supposed to air only on local cable channels, went national and Levinson Trachtenberg Group began licensing rights to Aroaz's performance to law firms across the country. Moreover, the ad agency began selling rights to use Aroaz's image on marketing materials and billboards. It is alleged that the ad production company made deals with law firms in Arizona, New Mexico, Washington, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Kansas, South Carolina and Colorado. Though the ad agency was making additional money using Aroaz's performance and image, she was never further compensated until 2012, when she confronted the company about payment.

In her petition, Aroaz alleges that Levinson Trachtenberg Group made upwards of $250,000 in exploiting her image and performance, including $20,000 from one law firm alone. While this was happening, the production company only paid Aroaz a grand total of $2,100. The total damages alleged by Aroaz are close to $1 million. Whether or not Aroaz will prevail depends on the specific terms of the contract she signed. More details will likely come to light as the case proceeds.

Contract Law in New York

When two parties come to a contractual agreement, they are expected to follow the terms of that contract. When an individual breaches one or more terms of a contract, the non-breaching party usually loses money and sometimes a significant amount. Usually, the breaching party will not simply compensate you as deserved merely by asking them. This is why parties sue for breach of contract and hope that the court will determine a fair result.

For this reason, it is imperative that you are represented by an attorney who has extensive experience in the areas of business and contract laws. If you believe you have a case, do not hesitate to contact our office to schedule a consultation.