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Decisions Roundup: 'American Gangster' Libel Suit Dismissed

Gavel_celeb_20061127Case: Diaz v. NBC Universal

Court: USDC, S. N.Y.

Date: Feb. 11, 2008

Facts: Three DEA agents filed a class action alleging every New York City-based agent who worked for the DEA between 1975 and 1987 was defamed by a legend that appears on the screen at the end of the Universal film "American Gangster." The legend says that the collaboration of notorious heroin dealer Frank Lucas with law enforcement "led to the conviction of three quarters of New York City's Drug Enforcement Agency."

Holding: Plaintiffs' libel claim is dismissed because they cannot demonstrate the allegedly defamatory legend, while untrue, is "of and concerning" a particular person. The legend never specifically identifies any of the named plaintiffs or putative class members and under the group libel doctrine, "when a reference is made to a large group of people, no individual within that group can fairly say the statement is about him, nor can the 'group' as a whole state a claim for defamation."

To read the full opinion, click here.

Case: Blix Street Records v. Gelbard

Court: California 2nd District Ct. of Appeal

Date: Feb. 7, 2008 (unpublished)

Facts: During trial of a licensing dispute between the parents of the late singer-songwriter Eva Cassidy and Blix Street Records, the parties reached a mediated settlement. Before judgment was entered, a new attorney for Blix Street informed the Cassidys that the settlement agreement was not enforceable in part because Allen Gelbard, a partner in Eva Cassidy Partners (ECP), had not signed it. The trial court, however, granted the Cassidys' motion for entry of judgment.

Holding: The 2nd District reversed the trial court, finding the settlement unenforceable because it did not meet the proper signature requirements. Case law holds that settlements must be signed by litigants -- not those acting on their behalf -- and "In the instant case, Gelbard, ECP and Daniel Cassidy, all parties, did not originally sign the settlement agreement and at no time did they orally affirm the agreement before the court." Declarations filed by Gelbard and Cassidy were not sufficient and "there was not even a place for [their] signatures."

Attorneys of Record: Harvey Friedman and Rachel Wilkes of Greenberg Glusker for Blix Street; Brian Sun and Frederick Friedman of Jones Day for Gelbard.

To read the full opinion, click here.