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6 celebrity lawsuits in the news

Tracking the most recent instances of stars behaving badly

© Georges Biard (l), Gage Skidmore (r)

Costner v. Baldwin

It could have been a real-life Hollywood story—two celebrities joining forces to clean up a devastating oil spill. Instead, the one-time partnership between Kevin Costner and Stephen Baldwin has soured into a bitter, multimillion-dollar courtroom battle.

Baldwin and his friend Spyridon Contogouris were investors in Costner’s company—Ocean Therapy Solutions (OTS)—before selling their shares for $1.4 million and $500,000, respectively. Shortly after their exodus, British Petroleum (BP) reportedly paid OTS more than $52 million for 32 oil separation centrifuges intended to clean up after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Baldwin and Contogouris sued Costner for $21 million in damages, claiming that he cheated them out of substantial profits by allowing them to sell their stock without informing them of the impending BP deal.

Costner later countersued, saying he was “surprised and offended by the idea that Contogouris and Baldwin would walk away from OTS with almost $2 million in cash despite having invested no money in the company…” Both stars are expected to testify in the trial, which began June 4.

© MTV

Ruined Reputation

You wouldn’t think that a man who willingly goes by the moniker “Johnny Bananas” would be overly concerned about his good name. But the former MTV reality star—whose real name is John Devenanzio—sued HBO last year, claiming the producers of the network’s hit show “Entourage” had tarnished his reputation and caused him “tremendous emotional distress” when they introduced the character of a cartoon gorilla named “Johnny Bananas.” Devenanzio sought compensatory and punitive damages and an injunction against any episodes featuring the character. HBO countered that nicknames are not protected under New York law and that there was no connection between Devenanzio and an animated ape.

The colorful case eventually ended in a less-than-dramatic fashion when a judge recently ruled that Devenanzio had failed to file the suit before the one-year statute of limitations expired.

© David Shankbone

Family Feud

On Wednesday, a California judge ended a contentious family feud between Leighton Meester and her mother, Constance, by delivering a default judgment in favor of the “Gossip Girl” star. The younger Meester first filed suit in July 2011, claiming that she sent her family $7,500 a month to pay for her younger brother’s medical expenses, but that Constance instead spent the money on Botox, hair extensions and plastic surgery.  

Constance fired back with a $3 million lawsuit, arguing that she had “sacrificed her happiness” to further Leighton’s acting career and that Leighton had broken an agreement to return the favor with $10,000 a month in support payments. But a Los Angeles judge ruled this week that no enforceable agreement existed between the two, and that Constance had failed to properly respond to her daughter’s original lawsuit.

Spoiler Snafu

Nobody likes an unwanted spoiler, but Warner Bros. took this dislike one step further, suing a reality TV blogger who makes a living by revealing the endings to popular shows. A Warner Bros.-owned production company sued Steve “Reality Steve” Carbone for tortious interference, claiming that he offered to pay former contestants on ABC’s “The Bachelor” in exchange for information about the show’s key plot points.

Carbone admitted that he once offered cash to three former contestants, but says the women weren’t interested in the deal. Otherwise, he said, he has never paid sources for information. Earlier this week, he announced that he had reached a settlement with the production company. Under the terms of the deal, Carbone can continue to spoil the show, as long as he does not initiate contact with cast or crew members.

© Eva Rinaldi

Lingerie Lawsuit

The good news (for her, at least) is that Paris Hilton got some extra publicity this week; the bad news is that it was inside a Manhattan courtroom. The heiress appeared in federal court Monday to settle a lawsuit with an Italian lingerie company. In 2010, Hilton reportedly signed an agreement to launch her own lingerie collection with Le Bonitas, but the deal later fell through when Hilton failed to approve the company’s proposed designs.

Hilton claimed that the deal went south when Le Bonitas refused to market her line in Europe, and then refused to pay her $1.5 million that it owed her. Everything ended happily, though, with Hilton reportedly agreeing to promote a new line for the company.

Flooring Fraud

Carter Oosterhouse first made his name as a carpenter on TLC’s “Trading Spaces,” and, as befits a former woodworker, he still takes his flooring choices very seriously. Oosterhouse inked a deal with a Michigan flooring supplier named World of Floors, giving the store permission to use Oosterhouse’s image within the Wolverine State. The trouble began when the store reportedly used the HGTV host’s image in advertisements for an affiliated national furniture store chain.

Oosterhouse sued World of Floors and an ad agency that worked on the campaign for more than $500,000 in damages. According to the lawsuit, Oosterhouse merits the large sum because he is a “handsome and wildly popular TV personality.”

Contributing Author

Alanna Byrne

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