Hollywood creative director wrongfully terminated for reporting boss's coke use; $450,000 verdict; settlement before punitive phase. Los Angeles County.


Plaintiff is terminated after he complains of his boss's drug use at work. Plaintiff contends that his boss's connections to lucrative clients and involvement in a company merger was major factor in plaintiff's being terminated.

The Case

  • Case Name: Andrew MacDonald v. Ascent Media Group, Inc., et al
  • Court and Case Number: Los Angeles Superior Court/ BC444911
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Tuesday, October 23, 2012
  • Date Action was Filed: Friday, September 03, 2010
  • Type of Case: Employment, Wrongful Termination
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Mary Strobel
  • Plaintiffs:
    Andrew MaDonald, 45, visual effects creative director.
  • Defendants:
    Ascent Media Group, Inc., Ascent Media Group, LLC, and Method Studios
  • Type of Result: Jury Verdict

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: $450,000 for general and special damages. Confidential settlement before punitive phase.
  • Economic Damages:

    $425,000 ($300,000 past; $125,000 future).

  • Non-Economic Damages:

    $25,000 for past emotional distress.

    $0 for future emotional distress.

  • Punitive Damages:

    Jury found plaintiff entitled to punitive damages, but a confidential settlement was reached before jury determined amount.

  • Trial or Arbitration Time: 8 days.
  • Jury Deliberation Time: 4 hours.
  • Jury Polls: 11 - 1 on liability; 10 - 2 on damages.

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:
    Geragos & Geragos APC by Mark Geragos, Pat Harris and Ben Meiselas, Los Angeles.
    Macias Counsel, Inc. by Sean Macias, Pasadena.
  • Attorney for the Defendant:
    Proskauer Rose by Anthony Oncidi, Jeremy Mittman and Adam Freed, Los Angeles.

The Experts

  • Plaintiff's Technical Experts:
    John T. Chrissey, MBA, MS, economics, Sierra Madre.
    Anthony Reading, Ph.D., psychiatry, Beverly Hills.
  • Defendant's Technical Experts:
    Amy M. Aukstikalnis, Ph.D., economics, Los Angeles.
    Francine Kulick, Ph.D., psychiatry, Santa Monica.

Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    Plaintiff was employed as a creative director for defendant, a Hollywood post-production visual effects company. Plaintiff was terminated from his employment by defendant on March 27, 2009. The night before his termination, plaintiff had complained to a senior executive at the company that his supervisor, Alex Frisch, was using cocaine at work.  Frisch is best known for his visual effects work in the "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise. 

    Frisch has repeatedly denied any such drug use, as reported by the media, and says that any such allegations are false.

  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    That plaintiff was wrongfully terminated in violation of public policy for reporting the drug use of his boss, Frisch; that Frisch was the "face of the company" and was responsible for lucrative company-client relationships and instrumental in a pending merger. That plaintiff was fired in order to protect the reputation and employment of his boss so that a pending merger with a larger company would be completed successfully; that Frisch's coke use was well known to others in the company.

    That defendant's contention that plaintiff made a videotape of his boss in the restroom was false. That he had only said, in frustration when his reports of drug use were not taken seriously,  "What do you need me to do to prove it to you, videotape it?"


  • Defendant's Contentions:

    That plaintiff was terminated for videotaping his boss in the restroom and threatening to put the video on Youtube and for audiotaping another executive of the company without either executive's knowledge or permission.

    That defendant was concerned about protecting the privacy of employees and fired plaintiff for violating privacy by videotaping his boss in a bathroom stall and audiotaping another executive without their knowledge or permission.

Special Damages

  • Special Damages Claimed - Past Lost Earnings: $300,000
  • Special Damages Claimed - Future Lost Earnings: $125,000

Demands and Offers

  • Plaintiff §998 Demand: $245,000 per defense counsel.
  • Plaintiff Demand during Trial: $1 million on first day of trial per defense counsel.
  • Defendant §998 Offer: $40,000