6 of the strangest lawsuits making headlines

An unsanitary state park, an actor’s copyright battle, and four more strange suits in the news

Wet and wild… fun?

Nothing says a full day of fun at the state park like hanging out with friends and family, eating some good food from the concession stand, and becoming infected with an intestinal illness related to the microscopic parasite cryptosporidium. You know, fun for the whole family (for you and 2,500 of your closest friends).

Seneca Lake State Park in New York state headed to trial over a class action lawsuit that claims the park did nothing to stop the illness outbreak within the park. According to the lawsuit, about 2,500 people came into contact with fecal material at the park that later led to a diarrheal illness in the summer of 2005. According to the Finger Lakes Times, all attempts to settle the suit have failed, and the court trial is set to begin on May 5.

“Parents and adults were exposed by contact in cleaning up after their children,” said lawyer Paul Nunes. “The contaminated water got into their mouths and was swallowed. Some were hospitalized. We are lucky there were no deaths.” He also added that the technology to avoid this type of illness originated in 2001 and claims, “This all could have been avoided with some good engineering work.”

Actors angry

 

Actor v. Actor

Old-timey baseball announcer Jim Brockmire may have gone crazy in the booth after finding his wife sleeping with another man, but actor Hank Azaria is all smiles after receiving copyright protection for his Brockmire character in U.S. district court.

Fellow actor Craig Bierko had claimed that Azaria had stolen the character and the old-school baseball announcer voice from him, and then profited off of the characterization through a mockumentary about Brockmire’s life on the website Funny or Die. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Bierko claims he first showed Azaria the characterization in 1990, then denied Azaria’s request to use the characterization for entertainment purposes in 1997.

U.S. District Judge Gary Feess, though, ruled in Azaria’s favor, saying that the Brockmire character qualifies for copyright protection because the work was fixed in a tangible medium and was original. While Brockmire held particular character attributes, such as his way of dress and his background, Bierko’s sports announcer character was found to be too vague and not qualified for copyright protection.

Statue

 

Statue struggle

In Glendale, Calif., a controversy has erupted over a statue in Glendale’s Central Park that was placed to honor women victimized by the Japanese government during World War II. The statue, which was placed in July 2013, seeks to remember “comfort women,” an estimated 80,000 to 200,000 women from Korea, China and other countries that were held as prostitutes against their will in military compounds. The statue, says supporters, seeks to bring light to an issue that often goes unreported.

“The root cause of this wasteful dispute is the fact that the government of Japan has never taken the full responsibility for its crimes against humanity,” said Phyllis Kim, spokeswoman for the Korean American Forum of California, to the L.A. Times. “To this day, it is trying to cover up, downplay and justify their past crimes instead of offering an official, sincere apology and sticking to it like [the] Germans did.”

However, a new lawsuit seeks to remove the statue, claiming that the statue infringes upon the U.S. government’s ability to exclusively conduct foreign affairs. The lawsuit also claims that “by installing the public monument, Glendale has taken a position in the contentious and politically sensitive international debate concerning the proper historical truth of the former comfort women.” The plaintiff who brought the lawsuit, Glendale resident Michiko Shiota Gingery, said she feels “feelings of exclusion, discomfort and anger” due to the monument.

Messy apartment

 

A big old mess

There are dirty condominiums, there are filthy condominiums, and then there are condominiums that inspire the local township to file a lawsuit against your home. 1547 Wingate in the Wingate Condominium complex in Ypsilanti, Mich., falls in the latter category.

In photos published by the Ann Arbor News, the home’s interior is piled high with garbage, spoiled food, clothes and other household items. Several dogs also live in the home, and their droppings have not been cleaned up. If the home owners contained their garbage, then perhaps the mess would be tolerable, but the lawsuit claims that the filthy conditions brought a plague of fleas and cockroaches upon the entire complex.

Ypsilanti Township condemned the home on Feb. 11, and the Wingate Condominium Association filed a lawsuit to have the home declared a public nuisance shortly after. The township later joined the lawsuit to protect the three condos that share a building with 1547 Wingate. The homeowners, who allegedly include a man and a woman living with a small child, have not been seen since the property was condemned.

Poker dealer


Bad poker face

Some poker players are simply better than others, while others sometimes need a little… boost. But when that boost involves $800,000 in fake poker chips, setting off a scandal that results in a major poker tournament’s cancellation, you better believe that the lawyers will soon be getting involved.

The Press of Atlantic City reports that a class action lawsuit filed on behalf of 4,000 poker players has been filed in an attempt to recover lost entrance fees and travel expenses. The tournament, Event 1 in the Borgata Winter Poker Open, required a $560 buy-in fee for a chance to win a portion of a $2 million prize. One entrant, Christian Lusardi, was later found attempting to flush chips worth $2.7 million in tournament currency down the toilet at Harrah’s casino, at which time he was arrested for attempting to rig the event. Since the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement suspended the tournament on Jan. 16, the prize money and entrance fees have been caught in limbo.

“In my 31 years in practice, I have to say this is one of the cleanest claims we’ve had,” said Bruce LiCausi, lawyer for the class action lawsuit. “Borgata holds itself as a respected provider of poker tournaments. They might say this is a learning experience for them, and while that’s laudable, it’s at the expense of the thousands who traveled to Atlantic City and entered this tournament under the expectation that it would be run properly.”

Music

 

Sweet sounds of lawsuits

Here’s the thing: They started out friends. It was cool, but it was all pretend. And now, Kelly Clarkson and other American Idol contestants want at least $10 million in royalties that a lawsuit claims Sony Music has been withholding.

19 Recordings, which represents former American Idol contestants including Kelly Clarkson, Clay Aiken, Carrie Underwood and Chris Daughtry, filed a lawsuit on Feb. 25 claiming that Sony routinely underpaid royalties, especially related to online streams of songs. In the lawsuit reported by The Hollywood Reporter, 19 Recordings claims that Sony has been treating plays of master recordings as “sales” or “distributions” rather than “broadcasts” or “transmissions,” thus allowing Sony to pay lower prices for their use. The discrepancy accounts for roughly $3 million of the at least $10 million that 19 Recordings seeks.

“We did not want to have to file this lawsuit, but Sony left us no choice, so this became necessary to protect our artists,” said 19 Entertainment Worldwide head of music Jason Morey. “Our complaint lays out the claims in great detail. Everything we have to say about the case is set forth in it.”

Assistant Editor

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Zach Warren

Zach Warren is Assistant Editor of InsideCounsel magazine, where he oversees online content submissions and administers InsideCounsel's enewsletters. Zach specializes in new media and multimedia...

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