Paperwork was filed earlier today with the comptroller’s office in Orange County, Florida earlier today, which announces that a lawsuit against Walt Disney World by Leanne Deacon, on behalf of her daughter, was voluntarily dismissed with prejudice. This likely indicates that an out-of-court settlement between the parties has been reached.
The lawsuit, which was filed in early 2009, alleges that Deacon’s then-teenage daughter suffered permanent brain damage after collapsing as a result of riding Disney’s Tower of Terror attraction in 2005. Deacon claimed Disney Parks and Resorts was negligent in providing ample warnings about the potential dangers of the attraction and was reportedly seeking in excess of $15 million, an amount Deacon claimed would be necessary to support her daughter for the remainder of her life.
If the case were in fact settled out of court — which is the likely outcome given that the case was voluntarily dismissed — terms generally prohibit either party from disclosing the final results.
Children’s Apparel Network has issued a voluntary recall in conjunction with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission for Disney-branded Fleece Hoodie and T-Shirt Sets sold exclusively at Target. The recalled styles are: Red Fleece Hoodie with Snow White (DP4253B), Grey Fleece Hoodie with Mickey Mouse (J4821) and Blue Fleece Hoodie with Cars (J4820-A). Style numbers can be found printed on the label along the hoodie’s side seam.
The products are being recalled due to the surface coating on the zipper of the fleece hoodie and t-shirt sets contain excessive levels of lead, violating the federal lead paint standard. To date no incidents have been reported.
The items were manufactured in Pakistan and approximately 6200 were sold at Target between October 2011 and December 2011 for about $18. Consumers are advised to return the item to Target for full credit.
The Tower of Terror at Disney’s Hollywood Studios lives up to its name for millions of thrillseekers a year, but for one New Yorker, it took terror to all new heights courtesy of the Kardashian clan, according to a restraining order request filed earlier this week in Florida Middle District Court.
The claim originates from Brooklyn native Gino Romano, who may be better known as Jonathan Lee Riches, a man that Guinness World Records has dubbed ‘the most litigious person in the world,’ having filed thousands of frivolous lawsuits over the past few years. This according to CNY Central, reporting on yet another odd case filed by Riches earlier this month.
If he weren’t so set on suing anyone and everything, he might actually find himself a career in fictional writing given the extent of zaniness he manages to dole out several times a week. Here, for example, is the contents of the complaint he filed against both Walt Disney World and Kardashian sisters (and mother, Kris Jenner):
I face imminent danger and bodily harm from the Kardashians and Kris Jenner.
On 6/11/2012 I was in Walt Disney World at MGM Studios, and Kim Kardashian terrorized me on the Tower of Terror, I previously sued the Kardashians last week in Nashville TN, and they are mad at me, and want revenge, so the Kardashians on Kris Jenner’s direct orders have been following & stalking me across the nation to seek jihad against me, and to silence me from whistleblowing against them, so I was on the Tower of Terror and right before the ride dropped from the sky, Kim Kardashian & Kourtney Kardashian were sitting behind me on the ride, and Kim whispered in my ear ‘Boo’ ‘I’m following you Romano’ and ‘You better drop the lawsuits against us or Lamar Odom & Kris Humphries are gonna get you sucker’ then Kourtney tasered me as the ride was dropping, I began shaking and having a seizure and the Kardashians were laughing at me and Kim Kardashian made her voice like the Wicked Witch of the West, threatening to take my dog and give it to Michael Vick, and I ran off the ride in fear, and ran right into the waiting arms of Khloe Kardashian who was dressed as a sumo wrestler and she body slammed me onto the curb, while Kim Kardashian started pick pocketing my wallet, and Kourtney stole my Rolex and gave it to Scott Disick who wears it on the E! Network. I been robbed by the defendants, and they told me on my Facebook page that I can get my wallet back only if I stop suing them and I let Walt Disney World security and Michael Isner [sic] know, and they only gave me $5 off my next Disney visit, also Kim Kardashian stole my Mickey Mouse t-shirt and threw it onto the tracks of Space Mountain where I could not reach it. I seek restraining orders against the Kardashians following me around the country, I plan on going to Universal Studios in a few weeks and don’t want to get attached by the Kardashes [sic] on Batman or Transformer, I already suufered [sic] enough pain, emotional hormonal disfunction [sic] all in the hands of the Kardashians, please help me.’
Now of course what immediately triggered the feeling that this request was frivolous was the fact that the vehicle is pulled down on Tower of Terror, not dropped. However, after careful consideration, everything else mentioned appears to point to it as well. In fact, mentions of MGM Studios, Kris Humphries and Michael Eisner suggests that time is as warped as Riches/Romano’s requests. In fact, Romano reported filed another similarly ridiculous request for action against the Kardashians in the same week, claiming the family had harassed him at Busch Gardens in Tampa just the day before, despite the family’s publicity agent denying they were anywhere in the area at the time. According to Kim Kardashian’s Twitter timeline, she herself claims to have been attending functions and meetings in California on the day she was reportedly in Orlando, bringing the Tower of Terror to life.
UPDATE #1: 6/16/12 – For further reading, this Facebook page, presumably unauthorized, chronicles media coverage of Riches’ litigious exploits.
The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) Local 631 and the Service Trades Council Union filed a complaint in Florida Middle District Court against Walt Disney World yesterday over labor hiring practices which they claim are in violation of the then-governing agreement and subsequent mediation rulings.
At the heart of the complaint is the employment of ‘Temporary Employee Referral Program’ (TERP) employees at the ESPN Wide World of Sports in which the IATSE claims Walt Disney World deliberately went outside the agreement to hire on their own from sources unknown to the union. According to the mediation awards, Walt Disney World must use a list of qualified TERPs supplied to them by the IATSE. The IATSE asserts that not only did Walt Disney World not adhere to the previous rulings, but to date have neither asked IATSE for such a list nor have been willing to provide a list of their sources and number of TERPs hired and the required qualifications for said hirings, which is in direct violation of additional rulings by the mediator.
The lawsuit seeks to have the mediation rulings enforced by the court.
Princess Merida may be a force to reckon with when it comes to certain projectiles, but she won’t be proficient when it comes to baseballs or tomahawks if the Atlanta Braves have anything to say about it. While the recent news of Paramount Resources’ Pixar Petrolium is making a big splash, another significant war has been raging quietly on the trademark front — for months no less.
It all started back in March of last year when we reported on trademark applications which appeared to have been confirming a title change for what was then known as The Bear and the Bow, but is now known to be Brave.
Fast forward to this past summer when — after filing a number of extensions — the Atlanta National League Baseball Club, owners of the Atlanta Braves, formally filed an objection to many of the trademark applications. Although trademarks are specific to their singular and plural forms and the Braves do not possess any trademarks for the word BRAVE (only BRAVES), the organization believes that damages will occur as a result of Disney’s trademarks being approved as they have used the singular form before on merchandise and insist it is common for fans, media, et al to use the singular form when referring to a single player, whereas the pluralized form refers to the entire team.
Private negotiations between The Walt Disney Company and the Atlanta National League Ball Club are currently taking place in regards to several of the objected filings with the ball club intending to file an objection against yet another of the registrations. In other words, don’t expect to see Disney/Pixar ‘Brave’ day at Turner Field any time soon (but don’t rule it out either).
Companies must actively police and enforce their trademarks and take all reasonable action to protect them otherwise the trademark may be considered abandoned and thrown into the public domain. Popular examples of this occurring include aspirin and zippers.
ADDED 12/18/11 – A simple, but effective Google image search (Atlanta “Brave” -”Braves”) failed to turn up any BRAVE (singular) merchandise save for one out-of-print book titled If I Were an Atlanta Brave, part of a ‘Picture Me’ series from Playhouse Publishing which, according to Amazon.com, featured many such titles for various professional sports teams, all of which appear in their singular form in the title.
As a teen, she dropped out of high school to join the convent. For decades, she has devoted her life to the Lord, taking her preaching out into the streets of Harlem, New York, reaching out to drug dealers, addicts, prostitutes and gangsters. She sparked an ‘intimate’ friendship with noted Harlem mob boss Bumpy Johnson. She was elected into the office of unofficial mayor of Harlem and sworn in by former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, as well as named the community mayor. She has even been profiled in the New York Times. But perhaps the part she is most well known for, if she has it her way, is the inspiration behind Whoopi Goldberg’s character of Deloris Van Carter in the hit musical comedy, Sister Act, as well as its sequel — Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit — and, most recently, the Broadway musical of the same name. Her name is Delois Blakely and she has recently filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court in New York against Walt Disney Studios (as Walt Disney Motion Pictures Group, Inc.), musical producer Stage Entertainment, Sony Pictures Entertaiment, producer Scott Rudin and original screenwriter Paul Rudnick for stealing her story and bringing it to the silver screen and Broadway stage.
It’s no coincidence that the film’s main character is named Deloris and she Delois, she notes in her claim. Nor is it a coincidence that in the film, Deloris is known as Sister Mary, while she herself was known as Sister Marie. Other similarities are noted such as Deloris’ association with a gangster and how Deloris became choir director in the film (Blakely had only gone as far as to train for the same position). The similarities begin to wane, but not so much the inspiration, as Blakley points out that while Deloris hid in the convent to escape the wrath of gangsters, she had taken Bumpy Johnson into the convent to protect him from other gangsters. She also points out philosophical beliefs between the character and herself, namely that her belief that the Church should move to unconventional means and take their teachings out in the streets, a technique she employed, ultimately causing her to leave the convent after ten years, but not her aspirations and faith.
According to Blakely, Hollywood learned of her life after she brought an autobiography titled The Harlem Street Nun to literary agent Bertha Klausner in 1989. Although the manuscript appears to never have been published, its existence is confirmed by the custodian of Klausner’s collection, the University of Wyoming, although it attributes the manuscript to Frank Harris III.
Blakely says the manuscript was well received by TriStar Pictures who were interested in the project, enough so that they conducted a personal follow-up call with Blakely (essentially a fact-finding mission) and seemed eager to develop the deal, but warned that an impending merger with Columbia Pictures may slow the process. As nothing ever came of it, Blakely eventually learned of the film, produced by Disney’s Touchstone Pictures, and its subject matter, and worked for years to piece the story together as to how her story made it to the big screen.
The common denominator, according to Blakely, was noted film producer Scott Rudin. According to industry articles she had found online, Rudin, who had the story at TriStar was banned from the lot by Columbia (following a previous altercation) and he instead took the project, mentioned in the article by name, to Disney. Blakely asked Disney to investigate the matter and they did, determining that Sister Act was an original title, not based on any pre-existing material. For their part, Sony simply could only confirm that there was never a deal in place and could not find any mention of Blakely’s manuscript on file.
Blakely is actively pursuing a trial by jury and is seeking ‘damages and injunctive relief arising from defendants’ breach of contract, breach of confidential relationship, misappropriation and unjust enrichment, unfair competition, false representation, violation of right of publicity and other wrongs.’
ADDED: Interestingly enough, this is not the first time Disney has been sued over the Sister Act film. A copyright claim filed against Walt Disney Studios in the mid-90s by plaintiffs Donna Douglas and Curt Wilson cited dozens of similarities between the final product and a script they had submitted to the Studio. In that particular case, the presiding judge ruled that there wasn’t enough evidence to prove the case and ruled in Disney’s favor.
Whether Sister Act is determined to be based on Blakely’s own memoirs remains to be seen, but she has — without dispute — lived a remarkable life and perhaps the greatest chapter has yet to be written as she has elected to forgo a legal team and is representing herself.
A nun turned lawyer — if that doesn’t scream Disney live action, what does?
The first DreamWorks motion picture to be marketed by Walt Disney Studios, I Am Number Four, is the basis for a new patent infringement lawsuit filed by Patent Harbor, LLC, in Texas Eastern District Court yesterday against The Walt Disney Company. Patent Harbor claims that the Blu-Ray and DVD editions of the DreamWorks film violates their patent, #5,684,514 (aka ’514) – Apparatus and Method for Assembling Content Addressable Video, with its ‘content-addressing features (e.g. illustrated
chapter/scene selection) along with the authoring equipment, and/or sale of the authored discs,
on behalf of others and/or itself.’
The complaint also makes mention of Walt Disney Studios’ distribution of Miramax films on Blu-ray and DVD discs but does not go as far as to name any other specific films other than I Am Number Four.
Patent Harbor is requesting a trial by jury with claims to both pre- and post- lawsuit penalties and royalties based on sales of the movies found to be infringing upon the patent. Similar lawsuits have also been filed against LG Electronics, Audiovox Corporation, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment and DreamWorks Animation, with the court urging the use of mediation in most of the cases.
We finally have an update on a lawsuit filed by Walker Digital against The Walt Disney Company which claimed that the PhotoPass service available within the theme parks actively infringed upon its patent and requested an injunction against the service be ordered.
Apparently the team of Disney lawyers felt it was in their best interest to not go the common route of seeking methods for simply having the case thrown out, but have instead opted to help Walker Digital’s cause by telling them exactly who to sue. As a result, an amended complaint was filed yesterday to name Disney Photo Imaging, LLC as the
plaintiff defendant as advised by both DPI and The Walt Disney Company.
As it turns out, the move may simply be a stall tactic since Walker Digital has agreed to allow DPI another 30 days (until September 19, 2011) to answer the case, despite there obviously being awareness on the part of DPI and The Walt Disney Company. It could be a case of the prey toying with the predator, or Disney may in fact see some legitimacy in Walker Digital’s original complaint.
Bravo Sports has issued a voluntary recall in conjunction with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission for Disney-branded Pogo Stick (Disney Hannah Montana Pogo Stick, the Disney/Pixar Toy Story Cruising Cool Pogo Stick, the Disney/Pixar Cars Pogo Stick, the Disney Princess Pogo Stick and the Disney Fairies Cruising Cool Pogo Stick). The pogo sticks have Disney labels between the handlebars. The manufacturing date codes between 01/01/2009-022CO and 11/30/2010-022CO are on a clear label on the stem of the pogo stick near the foot pedals. The bottom rubber tip attached to the pogo stick frame can wear out prematurely, posing a fall hazard to consumers. Also, the end caps on the handlebars can come off, exposing sharp edges. This poses a laceration hazard to consumers. 82 reports of the bottom tip wearing out on the pogo sticks, including five reports of injuries. A 9-year-old girl suffered a skull fracture and chipped a tooth. Another 9-year-old girl cut her lip and chin, requiring stitches. Other injuries included scrapes, hits to the head and teeth pushed in.
The item was manufactured in China and approximately 159,000 sold at Burlington Coat Factory, Kmart, Kohls.com, Target and Toys R Us from February 2009 through June 2011 for about $20. Consumers are advised to immediately take the toy away from children and contact the manufacturer for a full refund by calling (855) 469-3429 between 7:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. PT or visit the firm’s website at www.bravopogorecall.com or view the full product recall notice here.
Disney Hannah Montana Pogo Stick, the Disney/Pixar Toy Story Cruising Cool Pogo Stick, the Disney/Pixar Cars Pogo Stick, the Disney Princess Pogo Stick and the Disney Fairies Cruising Cool Pogo Stick. The pogo sticks have Disney labels between the handlebars. The manufacturing date codes between 01/01/2009-022CO and 11/30/2010-022CO are on a clear label on the stem of the pogo stick near the foot pedals.
Earlier this week, Judge Dolly Gee of the United States District Court Central District of California has validated claims against Disney Parks and Resorts on behalf of plaintiffs Cari Shields, Amber Boggs and Teresa Stockton. The decision, which is available online via the plaintiffs’ attorney, offers a play-by-play in the ruling and demonstrates how each side has argued its point of view along each step of the decision process and thus, the court’s ruling.
In short, the lawsuit, which does not seek any monetary rewards, was broken down into ten different classes, identifying ten different issues that would have to be accepted as widely viewed complaints against those who are visually impaired and visited the Disney theme parks. For its part, the court reviewed complaints made at the parks in order to justify the requirement that enough guests have had the same experiences as the plaintiffs. Once requirements were satisfied, Disney Parks would argue not only the justification (in most cases), but eventually the ability for the plaintiffs to act as representatives for the class(es) in the lawsuit. One argument to dismiss Boggs and Shields as representatives for example is that they had threatened legal action against Disney Cruise Line for lack of similar accommodations. This logic backfired for Disney Parks, however, as the Court not only failed to see how a separate legal entity was related to the case at hand, but the fact that it showed the plaintiffs believed in their cause and showed commitment to it.
Of the initial ten defined classes (identified sources of issues for the legally blind) named in the suit, the Court ultimately found five to withstand all the requirements to be able to move forward with. Those include:
Plaintiffs allege there is lack of braille, large-print and other alternative signs, menus, maps and schedules to be found around the resort. Disney argued with evidence citing that only 10% of legally blind make use of braille and that requests for braille items is considered atypical (and thus fails to meet one of the legal requirements to proceed). Where the Court does stand behind the class, however, is that plaintiffs have alleged that cast members have refused to read menus to them.
Another area in which Disney’s argument backfired against them is in the use of kennels. Originally seeking relief against the cost of the use of kennels for service animals, the ability to tie up the service animal near an attraction and the lack of designated areas for service animals to defecate within the park, the first two claims were dismissed based on lack of complaints from other guests. The inability to locate area for service animals to defecate, however, stood up and the Court found that Disney’s response that all a visually impaired guest need to do is ask a cast member suggests that any such designated spot is difficult to locate. Additionally one plaintiff recalls being told by a cast member that she must take the dog to the kennel located at the front of the park and another guest complaint noted that the spot designated by the cast member was extremely remote.
Disney had difficulty finding an argument that held water with the Court on this issue, in which plaintiffs assert that as Disney Parks refuses to offer cast members to assist visually impaired guests inside the park, that they must bring someone with them and pay full price for admission. Here, Disney argued that there wasn’t enough unified complaints, stating some guests asked for discounted tickets and some asked for free, but the Court accused Disney of ‘splitting hairs’ and dismissed that argument. Disney then argued that lines should be drawn that those that would receive free or discounted admission should be paid medical personnel and not friends or family that would otherwise enjoy amenities of the parks. This argument too was dismissed.
Plaintiffs allege discrimination against the visually impaired because some guests have been actively denied access to the handicap viewing area, simply because they weren’t in wheelchairs. One guest complaint included a scenario in which the complainant’s daughter was refused front viewing for a parade and had to stand behind a guest in a wheelchair at the insistence of a cast member. The class also included shows, but the Court had found no evidence to support that aspect of the class, so it was modified to address just parades.
Plaintiffs allege that the Disney Parks websites are incompatible with screen reading software (with one plaintiff stating she had tried six different versions) and a guest complaining that the flash-based calendar (on Disneyland.com) automatically rendered it unusable with screen reading software. Disney’s arguments, one of which I failed to understand completely regarding the use of Disney Online’s navigation bars, also included the notion that there was ‘no accepted accessibility standard’ and that since the Department of Justice has ‘yet to determine which standards would apply to websites’ makes the issue moot.
Another class worth noting, which didn’t make the final cut, was the audio accessible device, presumably the one so lauded by Disney and the American Foundation for the Blind. This class failed to be accepted by the Court because although there were many issues and complaints associated with the device, it failed to satisfy the legal requirements. One plaintiff alleged that the device turned itself off and had no way to turn it back on without returning to Guest Relations for assistance, but other complaints included: the device not working at all; available only in English; inadequate audio descriptions and food menus; lack of GPS technology; lack of knowledge of operational use by cast members; lack of power button; inability to use device hands-free; and ambient noise drowning out audio — to name some.