Pageant Mom Reigns Supreme with Settlement in Suit Against Tabloids

On November 6, 2012, the mother of Isabella Barrett (a child who appeared on TLC’s child beauty pageant television show ‘Toddlers & Tiaras’) settled a libel lawsuit filed against TMZ and the Daily Mall, two media outlets who allegedly “sexualized” the child’s performance at a January charity event in several news articles.  The complaint, which originally sought $10 million from each of the defendants, accused the media outlets of portraying Isabelle in a manner that was “perceived sexually, erotically and pornographically by the readership of the articles [placing her] in serious physical danger, attracting the attention of others who would seek to sexualize a child.” In addition to approving the undisclosed settlement amount, New York Supreme Court Judge Joan M. Kenney ordered TMZ and the Daily Mall to retract the ...
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Mickey, I am Your Father…

The Walt Disney Company recently announced that it will pay just north of $4 billion for George Lucas’ production company, Lucasfilm, Ltd.   Disney, whose recent acquisitions include such entertainment powerhouses as comic book giant Marvel Entertainment and the computer animation company Pixar, revealed that it will continue to produce more films in the “Star Wars’ saga.  Lucas, who was the sole owner of the company baring his namesake, will become the second largest non-institutional shareholder of Disney stock when he receives 40 million shares as part of the deal. Disney Chairman, Bob Iger, praised the deal that will require approval under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act and various non-U.S. merger control regulations.  The merger will allow Disney to acquire the San Francisco based Lucasfilm and its operating businesses in live ...
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Cycling Union Prepares to Come Clean; Armstrong’s Problems Getting Worse?

The United States Anti Doping Agency (USADA) recently released its evidence against former cyclist Lance Armstrong.  Though Armstrong has claimed innocence against charges of blood doping and use of banned substances, the evidence provided by the USADA leaves little, if any, doubt that Armstrong was part of what USADA chief executive Travis Tygart called, “the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen.” Armstrong was given a lifetime ban from the sport of cycling in August, and was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles.  Although his attorney has derided the USADA’s decision as a “one sided hatchet job”, the evidence provided by the USADA is voluminous.  In addition to the testimony of 11 separate teammates, the USADA’s evidence against Armstrong included “direct documentary evidence ...
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Tom Cruise’s Defamation Suit Proves it’s Risky Business for Tabloids to Cover Suri

On October 24, 2012, Tom Cruise brought a defamation action against the publisher of Life & Style and In Touch Magazines in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.  The suit claims that the defendants published headlines indicating that he had abandoned his daughter Suri after his divorce with Katie Holmes, and seeks $50 million in damages. Some ‘at issue’ images included a picture captioned “Suri in tears, abandoned by her dad,” and featured a tearful photo of the young girl.  In response, Cruise retorted that the child had been crying because she had not been able to take a puppy home from the pet store.  Another photograph of Suri graced the cover of In Touch on Oct. 1st and featured the title “Abandoned by Daddy.” Cruise’s attorney, ...
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Goodell Passes Responsibility for Bountygate Hearings to Tagliabue; NFLPA Calls Foul

In an unprecedented move, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has agreed to recuse himself from overseeing a disciplinary appeal by four suspended New Orleans Saints’ players.  The appeal is seeking to reverse the suspensions Goodell handed down to the four based on their alleged role in the Bountygate Scandal where various Saints’ personnel were accused of promoting a pay-for-play system that encouraged the injuring of opponents.  Goodell has appointed his predecessor and former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue to adjudicate the hearings in his place. The original suspensions to Scott Fujita, Anthony Hargrove, Will Smith and Jonathan Vilma were thrown out by an appeals panel in September.  Goodell reinstated the hearings for two of the players last month (reducing the suspensions for the two others), prompting another appeal   Now, Tagliabue, a former ...
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Update: Penn State Seeks Stay of McQueary Suit

On Monday, October 22, 2012, Penn State filed a motion to stay former assistant football coach Mike McQueary’s whistleblower and defamation lawsuit.  McQueary’s suit alleges wrongdoing by former Penn State athletics director Tim Curley and former vice president Gary Schultz.  Curley and Schultz allegedly failed to report child abuse after McQueary told them he saw Jerry Sandusky raping a boy in a shower.  McQueary testified about this to a grand jury, and then Penn State allegedly fired him as a result.  Curley and Schultz are presently facing criminal charges and awaiting trial for lying to the grand jury about the extent to which they reported the abuse. Penn State is arguing that McQueary’s suit should be stayed until the parallel criminal proceedings are concluded. The university has filed motions to stay other civil suits ...
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Judge Tells Plaintiff to ‘Just Go Away’ in Mötley Crüe Copyright Suit

Recently, U.S. District Judge John F. Grady dismissed a copyright infringement suit brought against the band Mötley Crüe in alleging the band improperly used copyrighted photos of themselves – photos acquired and copyrighted by Plaintiff Ron Toma in 2008 – as backdrops for recent rock concerts.  Toma filed suit against the band in the Northern District of Illinois. Judge Grady’s decision noted that the band had only “sporadic” contacts with Illinois, making the state an inappropriate forum for the action, stating “[t]hese contacts are extensive in the aggregate, but they are insufficient to meet the demanding standard required to subject the defendants to general jurisdiction.”  Still, Judge Grady noted that Toma was free to file his suit elsewhere – so long as it occurred outside of Illinois. Notably, this is not ...
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ANALYSIS: McQueary Files Whistleblower and Defamation Suit Against Penn State

Mike McQueary, a former assistant football coach at Penn State, has filed a $4 million whistleblower and defamation lawsuit against the school.  The suit stems from Penn State’s alleged retaliation against McQueary after he testified against school officials during the child sex abuse scandal. According to the McQueary Complaint filed in Pennsylvania state court, in 2010, McQueary testified before a grand jury that he saw Jerry Sandusky sexually abusing a child in the showers at Penn State in 2001.  McQueary testified that he reported the abuse to then head coach Joe Paterno the morning after he saw the abuse, and that he reported the abuse nine or ten days later to then athletics director Tim Curley and then vice president Gary Schultz.  According to the complaint, Curley and Schultz told McQueary that ...
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Clint Eastwood Takes on Another Chair: Settles Lawsuit Against Furniture Manufacturer

Clint Eastwood has reached a settlement in his lawsuit against Evofurniture LLC which accused the furniture manufacturer of impermissibly using Eastwood’s name on various furniture products – such as chairs, ottomans, and entertainment centers – without permission.  Among other things, the action asserted claims of misappropriation of name and persona.  According to a court notice filed on October 15, 2012, the settlement includes the issuance of an injunction barring Evofurniture from naming any furniture products after Eastwood in the future.  Monetary terms of the settlement are undisclosed. Among the notable examples cited in Eastwood’s complaint was an advertisement which stated that the “Clint” entertainment center made it “look like you live in a perfect world of a million-dollar baby”.  Another advertisement suggested that purchasers of the “Clint” entertainment center should ...
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Lance Armstrong Steps Down from Livestrong, Dropped by Nike

Days before the Livestrong Foundation’s 15th anniversary celebration, its founder, Lance Armstrong, announced this morning that he is stepping down as Chairman.   Nike, Inc. also announced today that it is terminating its contract with Armstrong based on the “seemingly insurmountable evidence” that Armstrong participated in doping.  Nike will continue its support of Livestrong initiatives.  Both announcements follow the release of a report last week by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency which included testimony from several former teammates that Armstrong both used and trafficked performance enhancing drugs during his cycling career.  Armstrong was banned from competitive cycling and stripped of his titles by the USADA in August. Nike, Inc. Statement Armstrong Dropped by Nike, Steps Down as Chairman of His Charity
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