So many of our important-sounding courses seem to have little practical value. Just try bringing up subject matter jurisdiction or easements at a party... Therefore, it's pretty exciting when something learned in class can actually be put to use. You know, counseling friends to make use of the right to remain silent, revising my parents' will to make sure that I get the good china and, perhaps most often, understanding better the latest in celebrity gossip. The posts of Perez Hilton are just rife with their legal woes.
Needless to say, it's been a rough week for Lindsay Lohan. Despite a hopeful cameo at the VMAs, the girl just can't seem to break her bad habits. But routine drug tests don't require spending $150K on a legal education to comprehend. Every teenage job applicant at Target can explain that failure will not lead to good things. So riveting is Lindsay's impending return to prison that another interesting legal development for Ms. Lohan was almost overlooked.
On Monday, Linds settled a $100 million lawsuit she brought against E-Trade in March. In her original complaint, filed in Nassau County Supreme Court of NY (the basis of venue was the plaintiff's residence), she argued that the company had violated section 50 of the Civil Rights Law of the state of New York, the right to privacy, by using her name, characterization and personality for advertising purposes and commercial benefits without her consent.
She discussed specifically the reference to "that milkaholic, Lindsay" in E-Trade's 2010 Superbowl commercial (love those talking babies!). The complaint states that the appearance of look a-like name, characterization and personality in the advertisements caused Lindsay to be identified in connection with the company's products and services.
It was an interesting $100 million assertion and, some would say, a bit of a stretch. After all, that name is far less iconic than, say, Oprah, Madonna or Prince. And the commercial just showed a bunch of babies talking about their romantic troubles, not a group of club goers emerging from a party sans underwear. It's not like one of them sported red hair and waved around a copy of Mean Girls. Lohan's attorneys argued that the babies in the commercial were symbolic. Though they acting like cute babies, they actually portrayed Lindsay and her friends.
E-Trade responded strongly. Company lawyers reportedly filed hundreds of pages of evidence with the court and made a motion requesting a change of venue to Manhattan, where its headquarters are located. E-Trade described the claim as meritless. The company pointed out that Lohan isn't the only Lindsay in the world. Additionally, she is not a celebrity generally associated with banking or online trading.
And yet, despite a confident defense, E-Trade has decided to settle. A company spokeswoman told the New York Post, "Basically, it was a business decision to move on. We are pleased to have the matter behind us."
According to the court document, the suit was withdrawn with prejudice and without costs or fees to any party. Just in case you haven't gotten that far in civ pro yet, "with prejudice" means that the plaintiff is barred from filing a new lawsuit with the same allegations.
While the details of the settlement were not released, doting mom, Dina, stated that they were "very pleased" while her attorney noted "we're very glad the case is settled". That's lawyer-speak for "now I know I'll be able to collect all of my fees."
At the end of the day, the spat serves as a good reminder to make sure you run those national advertising campaigns past the legal department.