Legal Roundup: Clint Eastwood Wins $6.1 Million Against CBD Company, Dr. Seuss/Star Trek Mashup Lawsuit Settles Before Trial and More
Clint Eastwood’s Day Is Made with a $6.1 Million Win Against CBD Company
The case: Clint Eastwood, an Academy Award winner whose credits include acting in, directing and producing dozens of big screen blockbusters, filed two cases in Los Angeles Federal Court. He alleged that his name and likeness were used without consent to sell CBD products, as reported by The New York Times.
Mediatonas UAB was accused of fabricating a television interview “with an outlet meant to resemble the ‘Today’ show,” for an online article that also included purchase links, wrote the Times. The article even used a photograph of the “Dirty Harry” star pulled from a real interview on the NBC morning show.
Scorecard: Judge R. Gary Klausner of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California has awarded $6.1 million to Eastwood and Garrapata, the company that owns the actor’s likeness.
Takeaway: Mediatonas did not respond to a summons earlier this year, according to the Times, prompting Klausner to enter a default judgment. However, the court declined a request for additional defamation damages in the claim.
There’s been some shifting of blame in this case. Originally, the complaint filed last year targeted the CBD product makers. This year, “Mr. Eastwood’s lawyers filed an amended complaint against Mediatonas UAB, the company that owns the websites where the false stories appear,” according to the Times.
Dr. Seuss/Star Trek Mashup Lawsuit Settles Prior to Trial
The case: Dr. Seuss Enterprises, representing the estate of Theodor Geisel, sued mashup book publisher ComicMix in 2016 for copyright infringement in the Dr. Seuss/Star Trek book, “Oh, The Places You’ll Boldly Go!” The Seuss estate took on ComicMix in California Federal Court.
Initially, ComicMix seemed to have the upper hand, according to The Hollywood Reporter. When the intellectual property case was appealed to a U.S. District Court in 2019, the judge ruled in favor of ComicMix “on the grounds that Boldly is a fair use,” according to court filings.
Seuss Enterprises continued the fight.
Scorecard: One of the places this case will not go is back to court. The parties have reached a settlement, agreeing that the book does infringe Seuss’ copyrights, according to Reuters. ComicMix agrees that it will no longer distribute the title.
Takeaway: In the escalating appeal, the case was rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this year, according to Reuters.
An extenuating circumstance propelled the settlement. After ComicMix book illustrator Ty Templeton was diagnosed with colorectal cancer, both parties agreed to end the dispute, rather than continue the lengthy legal process.
California Oil Spill Leads to Legal Action
The case: After a massive oil spill off the California coast, a proposed class action lawsuit has been filed against rig and pipeline operators. “Plaintiffs are requesting a jury trial to determine whether the defendants violated state laws and whether the defendants breached a duty and caused harm to the plaintiffs,” according to ABC News.
The lead plaintiff in the case is Peter Moses Gutierrez, a DJ who alleges that he’s been blocked from his gig spinning tunes on Huntington Beach, according to ABC. The suit names “Houston-based Amplify Energy Corporation and its Beta Operating Company,” according to Reuters.
Scorecard: The case has recently been filed and has not reached a resolution.
Takeaway: Reuters reports that an estimated 126,000 gallons of crude oil leaked from the Elly pipeline in the Pacific Ocean, killing wildlife and closing coastal recreation areas from Huntington Beach Pier down to Newport Beach. The slick covers about 13 square miles. Expect more cases to follow in the aftermath.
Tesla Hit With $137 Million Fine in Discrimination Decision
The case: Electric vehicle maker Tesla was sued for civil rights violations in the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of California. Former employee Owen Diaz, who worked as an elevator operator at the carmaker’s Fremont, California plant, claimed that he “encountered racist abuse, discrimination and harassment,” according to The Washington Post, enduring “daily racist epithets.”
Scorecard: Tesla is ordered to pay nearly $137 million in damages following a jury trial, as reported in the Post.
Takeaway: According to Reuters, the jury found that “Tesla failed to take steps to prevent race-based harassment of factory workers, including the use of racial slurs and racist graffiti in bathrooms.” It is likely that Tesla will appeal this decision in an effort to reduce the payout.
Legal experts note that the 19:1 ratio in the settlement is far greater than the Supreme Court’s recommendation that punitive damages, which in this case are $130 million, should not exceed 10 times the price of compensatory damages.
Tesla was ordered to pay $6.9 million to Diaz in compensatory damages. Reuters noted that “several legal experts said the award for Diaz was among the largest in a U.S. discrimination case involving a single plaintiff.” &