By John McPhaul
Former Miss Universe Zuleyka Rivera scored a victory in the federal Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in a lawsuit filed against Kress Stores of Puerto Rico Inc., her lawyers announced on Wednesday.
“With this victory in the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, it was established that the costs and fees will be levied in favor of the plaintiff, who will continue in the United States District Court for the District of Puerto Rico with the case for breach of contract and damages,” attorney Edwin Prado Galarza said in a written statement.
The lawyer said the forum concluded that the U.S. District Court for the District of Puerto Rico made an error, for which it annulled its order to dismiss the action and established the return for new procedures, due to the lawsuit filed against Kress Stores and its CEO Mark Berezdivin for breaching the commercial agreement signed on Aug. 5, 2009. It was amended through a verbal agreement that allowed the use of Rivera’s name, contest title, image and likeness for the development and promotion of, among other things, brand name apparel and fragrance items. In exchange, Rivera would receive a fixed sum by right.
Prado Galarza said the original term of the contractual agreement was two years, but when it was set to expire, Kress Stores exercised the contractual option to extend it for another year (until August 2012) at a fixed amount per year. Thereafter, annual payments of the previously agreed upon amount continued for each verbally renewed “contract year” through August 2018.
“Just in 2018, Kress Stores did not pay Zuleyka Rivera the established annual stipend,” the attorney said. “Instead she attempted to renegotiate the compensation figure, which failed and in March 2020, an accounting of payments due and a cease and desist letter was sent to Kress Stores.”
He contended that Kress Stores and Berezdivin then acknowledged the debt to Miss Universe 2006, made a partial payment, and announced that they intended to pay the debt in accordance with a revised payment plan. They also alleged that they no longer had any of the plaintiff’s branded merchandise on hand.
In the meantime, Prado Galarza said, Kress Stores continued to maintain and market products labeled with Rivera’s brand in its physical and online stores. The former beauty queen never agreed to a revised payment plan.
In the million-dollar lawsuit, Rivera -- represented by Prado Galarza’s law firm --- demanded the money owed, plus compensation for damages caused by the improper use of her name and image.