All Articles Tagged "lawsuit"

‘American Idol’ Racism Lawsuit Dismissed; Contestants Waited Too Long

November 21st, 2014 - By Ann Brown
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The American Idol lawsuit has been voted out. Last year, 10 African-American former contestants sued Fox saying that their disqualifications from the long-running TV talent competition occurred out of racial animus.

In July 2013, the former contestants brought the lawsuit, which claimed the producers allegedly “dug up dirt on African-American contestants, had disseminated information from criminal rap sheets to the media in order to justify DQs,” reports The Hollywood Reporter. It also charged that the show was manipulated, and that the contestants were made to sign “unconscionable Willy Wonka contracts.”

But it seems the contestants made their claims too late. U.S District Judge Naomi Buchwald heard oral arguments earlier this month and said the plaintiffs waited too long to sue, even though it appears the plantiff did have a case.

“Here, each plaintiff’s claims run from the date of his disqualification, as the adverse and allegedly discriminatory act of disqualification or elimination from competition is sufficient to put a contestant on notice that he should ‘protect himself by seeking legal advice’ and therefore to trigger the statute of limitations,” wrote the judge.

The plaintiffs however countered that they didn’t realize there had been a racial element to their ousting until a statistical study was commissioned following the disqualification of season 11 alum Jermaine Jones. According to the study, the disqualifications couldn’t have happened by random decisions on the part of producers, that there is “a prima facie case of racial discrimination as a matter of law with absolute zero percent chance of error.”

But Judge Buchwald responded, “Apart from ignoring the clear law that knowledge of a discriminatory motive is irrelevant, plaintiffs have provided no explanation of how JXJ’s disqualification made apparent discrimination that was otherwise obscure; rather, they simply state that JXJ’s disqualification alone revealed an actionable disparity of treatment, ln a way that plaintiffs’ alleged ten prior disqualifications did not. This conclusory assertion is not sufficient to toll the limitations period.”

It sounds like it was a case that was hard to make, and they took too long to try and make it.

You Mad? Judge Rules New York Woman Can Keep $10,200 Engagement Ring After Indirect Proposal

October 24th, 2014 - By Lauren R.D. Fox
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One New York woman gets to keep the ring even if she’s tossing back the man.

A New York judge recently ruled, Debbie Lopez, 48, can keep the diamond ring — valued at $10,200 — that her ex-boyfriend, Joseph Torres, 52, gave her. Normally she would have to return the jewelry to Torres. Under New York state law if an engagement is called off, a woman must return her ring to the partner who proposed to her. In this interesting circumstance, Torres actually never proposed to Lopez. According to The New York Post, Lopez says  Torres gave her the ring as a token of appreciation. She said, “When he gave it to me, he said it was a gift for being a great woman, a good mother of his child.”

He says they had a romantic proposal at Rockerfeller Center in April 2010, where their son gave Lopez her engagement ring. Despite Torres’ account of the memorable event, Lopez said he never asked her directly to marry him. Lopez wore the ring on her left hand but she told friends, when they asked if she was engaged, “Maybe, I don’t know yet.”

The couple parted ways in 2012. Their case was reviewed by Judge Scott Fairgrieve, who ruled Lopez was not required to give back her rock because of Torres’s indirect proposal. Torres’s attorney claimed his client was devastated by the ruling and truly believed he and Lopez were engaged to be married. Although this is an unfortunate circumstance for both parties, I find it odd they did not communicate to each other the status of their relationship after the exchange of such an expensive ring.

Word to the wise fellas, be sure to ask, “Will you marry me?” Or your commitment-phobia could cost you.

h/t Cosmopolitan

Matthew Middleton, Co-Chair Of BESLA, Gives His Expert Opinion On Celebrity Legal Woes

October 23rd, 2014 - By Rochelle Burnley
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Matt @ BESLA 2012 SpeakingCelebrities make headlines when they find themselves in heaps of legal trouble. And that seems to happen often these days. We often read about someone in the limelight seeking legal counsel over a DUI, bankruptcy, copyright infringement, or tax liability issue. Matthew Middleton, attorney and chairman of the Black Entertainment & Sports Lawyers Association (BESLA), has represented a variety of reality TV stars, songwriters and producers, as well as Grammy-award winning artists. His past clients include Kanye West, Chris Brown, Ne-Yo, Fabolous and the estate of the Notorious B.I.G where he negotiated the deal for the hit movie Notorious. BESLA is hosting their 34th Annual Conference in Playa Del Carmen through October 26.

Middleton talks with us about where all these legal troubles come from, sharing a bit of legal advice in the process.

MadameNoire: What are some of the most common legal woes that celebrities experience?
Matthew Middleton: It really stretches the whole gamut, but what we typically hear about are the things like the DWI case, being in possession of a controlled substance or being in possession of illegal weapons, the allegations of sexual or physical assault. Then you have clients that are going through very public or bitter divorces, child custody battles, and even now the unauthorized taping of private moments, sex tapes. They’re facing a lot of these issues today and now with social media, we just hear so much about all of these different matters.

MN: What preventative measures can they take to better protect themselves?
MM: Most celebrities are either creative people, personalities, or athletes so they’re not that well-versed in the law. That’s where having a good and competent lawyer on your team is invaluable because part of what we can try to do is educate our clients. A lot of the times celebrities, because they’re used to having their own way or because they’re well-known, when they encounter the police they try to talk their way out of the situation. Oftentimes, by making statements they’re further incriminating themselves. So it’s important for them to know when you are being confronted by the police or charged with an alleged crime, it’s probably best to just remain silent, call your attorney, and let your team handle it from there.

…Obviously, [with] celebrities because they’re in the public eye, there’s a lot of scrutiny. Everyone is watching to make sure that this certain celebrity isn’t being treated more favorably. A lot of times, I feel that the government, the court, or the police, they go overboard to make sure that the celebrity is not being treated more favorably. I wouldn’t say that they’re targeted because of the media attention and the fact that they live their life in the public eye. It’s just a heightened level of review.

MN: If they do find themselves in trouble, what are some ways that they can amend their situation?
MM: With celebrities, these things affect their brand. It affects their sponsorships, endorsements, their ability to remain on a team; there are just so many ramifications that celebrities are confronted with, you have to have the right team around you. A lot of times, when we are dealing with high-profile cases, we advise the client that they may have their normal publicist or PR rep as a part of the team; but when these situations arise we need to have a crisis management PR person as a part of the team. As a lawyer, you’re not only trying to fight for the best possible outcome in court, but now you’re also fighting in the court of public opinions. The court of public opinion may sometimes be more important than what comes out of the actual courtroom. The most paramount thing is to have the right team around you…and let them come up with the best strategy and deal with the matter.

MN: Is it common for most celebrities, in these circumstances, to avoid jail time due to their social status?
MM: I’ve seen it happen both ways. [Celebrities] have resources that they can avail themselves of to best deal with this matter. So when you have the “best people” involved, nine times out of 10, you get a better outcome than the average person who may not have those resources.

Sometimes, celebrities are sent to jail… because the judge or prosecutor want to be shown as being tough on crime. So they use them as an example… [M]aybe if it was an average person you would have been able to avoid jail time.

MN: How are the different offenses handled? Copyright infringement, bankruptcies, tax liabilities?
MM: Bankruptcy and civil matters like that, they’re more embarrassing and [have] more affect on the brand as opposed to affecting the celebrity’s way of life. They’re not going to affect their livelihood per se, but they’re affecting their image and their public persona. A civil matter you would deal with differently than a criminal matter.

MN: Can you tell us about BESLA?
MM: BESLA is the Black Entertainment & Sports Lawyers Association. This is our 34th year in existence. This is an organization of professional lawyers, some business professionals that work in entertainment, television/film, sports arena. The majority of our members either represent high-profile clients or work for companies or agencies that represent high-profile clients.

Our primary focus is to provide synergistic networking opportunities for professionals in this area so that we can network and share information. We have our annual conference where we put on panels and programs. We have experienced professionals come and share their experience and give advice.

A lot of people don’t know that the popular show Scandal is loosely based on an attorney who’s an experienced crisis management professional. She’s come to speak at our conference to share her experience and give advice to a lot of the lawyers or agents who are members of our organization.

We give out scholarships to deserving law students who show an interest in a career in this profession. Basically we are an organization trying to do whatever we can to promote the excellence of professionals in this industry and encourage diversity in this area as well.

Model Says Donald Trump’s Trump Model Management Owes Her A Ton Of Money

October 21st, 2014 - By Ann Brown
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via YouTube

via YouTube

A model says Donald Trump doesn’t pay his bills. A former model for his Trump Model Management claims she was promised an annual salary of $75,000, but got only $3,380.75 for 21 jobs over the course of three years, the Daily News reports. That’s a big difference. That comes to just over $160 per job — pretty low for an agency model.

So Alexia Palmer has filed a federal lawsuit against Trump Model Management, and she is proposing class action. Palmer charges that between January 2011 and December 2013 the agency not only took an agency fee of 20 percent from her modeling income, but made her pay a variety of “obscure expenses” that took the rest of her money, according to court papers.

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The agency, which Trump founded in 1999, sent Palmer to a dermatologist and had her take walking lessons, while also deducting expenses for almost everything, from postage fees to makeup kits to limousine rides. Trump attorney Alan Garten, however, claims the facts in the lawsuit were exaggerated.“The complaint is bogus and completely frivolous,” he said.

Palmer, who is of Jamaican heritage, moved to the United States after being promised a guaranteed salary by Trump. At 5-foot 10-inch, Palmer has posed for Chanel and Teen Vogue, among other work. According her lawyer, Naresh Gehi, her rights were “miserably violated.”

“My client should be paid what she was promised,” said Gehi.

“Palmer was reportedly discovered as a high school teen in 2010 when she placed second in Liverpool-based modeling titan Pulse’s 2010 ‘Caribbean Model Search.’ Her images were soon featured throughout London promoting top cosmetic lines, and she scored a shoot for Teen Vogue with members of the cast of the TV hit ‘Glee,'” reports The New York Post.

Carol Alt, Kim Alexis and former Miss Universe and Miss USA Olivia Culpo have been signed to Trump’s agency.

No He Didn’t! Judge Says Teddy Pendergrass’s Son Submitted Fake Will In Battle Over Estate

October 20th, 2014 - By Ann Brown
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Another battle over a celebrity estate just got settled. The son of the late R&B icon Teddy Pendergrass was challenging the singer’s widow for control over the estate. But a suburban Philadelphia judge decided Pendergrass’s wife will retain control. Theodore “Ted” Pendergrass II tried to submit a “fraudulent” will dated May 2009. And Montgomery County Orphans’ Court Judge Stanley Ott called his testimony “wholly lacking in credibility.”

“We believe the proponent’s tall tale was hatched when he learned he was being disinherited by his father …,” Ott wrote.

The trial lasted eight days, during which Pendergrass II claimed a new will was executed by his father at a secretly arranged meeting on the side of a road in Delaware on May 24, 2009. And that the new will named him executor and beneficiary of his late father’s estate. But the judge questioned whether the paralyzed musician, who had a driver and used a specially equipped van, could have left his home that day without his nurses to finalize a such a will.

Nurses who cared for Pendergrass on May 24 “stated definitively that the decedent did not leave the residence at any time on the afternoon in question,” the judge wrote. The judge ruled that the will dated in March 2009 and giving Joan Pendergrass most of the estate will stand, reports The Huffington Post.

According to witnesses, the singer wanted his wife to control his estate and that he removed his son from his will “because he was disappointed in him,” states court papers.

According to court documents, Joan Pendergrass, an executive manager of an athletic shoe company, met the singer in 2006 and they were married two years later.

“The estimated value of the estate has not been revealed. The battle was unique because it didn’t deal with traditional items such as bank accounts and property but with royalties and the music legend’s legacy and the use of his name,” reports Mainline Media News.

Teddy Pendergrass was paralyzed in a Philadelphia car accident in 1982 and died of colon cancer in 2010 at age 59.

How You Doin’? Former Intern Sues Wendy Williams Claiming Unpaid Wages

October 14th, 2014 - By Ann Brown
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Wendy Williams: Lifetime's Aaliyah Biopic To Air In February
Source: WENN

Wendy Williams is being sued. No, not by some disgruntled celebrity but by a former intern who says the daytime talk show diva failed to pay proper wages.

One intern, Anthony Tart, has filed 12-page complaint against The Wendy Williams Show, Lionsgate, and Debmar-Mercury claiming he and more than 100 other interns were “illegally classified as minimum wage-exempt workers for the chat show,” reports Black America Web. If this is the case, this is a violation of state and federal laws in New York.

But Deadline reports that a potential class-action suit filed in federal court last week claims that this has been the norm at The Wendy Williams Show since 2008. This move allowed the company to minimize labor costs.

According to Tart however, he received no “educational or vocational training” while doing work that full-time employees would typically handle.

“Tart was hired by Defendants in or about August 2012 and performed various tasks including, but not limited to, washing dishes, getting coffee, picking up art supplies, stocking printers, throwing out garbage, and creating a tape library,” court documents state.

Tart wants an undisclosed amount, to be determined by a judge at trial, for the work he did just for one month — between August and September 2012. During that time, he worked there two days per week. So a relatively short stint.

This isn’t the first time Williams has been sued. Former Williams publicist Nicole Spence filed suit against the talk show host and her husband Kevin Hunter claiming that Hunter sexually harassed her. Williams settled the lawsuit out of court.

Shawn & Keenen Ivory Wayans Sued By Law Firm For $60K

October 10th, 2014 - By Ann Brown
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Apega/Wenn & FayesVision/

This is no laughing matter: Comedy stars and brothers Shawn and Keenen Ivory Wayans are being sued.

According to law firm S&E Azriliant, the Wayans brothers owe them more than $60,000. The brothers hired the firm in 2005 for managing taxes and creation of corporations, according to documents. The firm says the brothers began “dodging” payments in 2008, reports The New York Daily News.

S & E Azriliant claims “Keenen owes $21,825 … and Shawn owes $22K. Additionally, they owe another $20,200 together,” reports TMZ.

S&E Azriliant filed the suit in Manhattan Supreme Court. The firm wants the money it’s due plus interest.

Now we know the Wayans brothers have the cash, so we wonder if there is something else going on. After all between just these two of the mega successful siblings, they have such hit films as White Chicks, Don’t Be A Menace To South Central, Scary Movie, I’m Gonna Git You Sucka and the groundbreaking In Living Color TV series between them. You can catch Keenen on NBC’s Last Comic Standing. Shawn is still doing stand up.


Get $10 From Red Bull! Consumers Get Cash Claim Over ‘Gives You Wings’ Lawsuit

October 9th, 2014 - By Ann Brown
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maranello66 /

People drink Red Bull for an extra jolt of energy they can’t find anywhere else. But a lawsuit found that the popular drink is no more effective than a good old cup of java. This despite Red Bull’s “give you wings” advertisement that promised increased performance and concentration.

So now the Austrian drinks company has agreed to a $13 million settlement with American consumers. If you drank a can of Red Bull in the past 12 years you may be able to claim $10. Woo hoo! That’ll give you wings.

The settlement still has to be approved by the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of New York. But under the settlement, any consumer who bought a Red Bull between Jan. 1, 2002, and Oct. 3, 2014, either $10 cash or $15 worth of Red Bull products, according to law firm Morelli Alters Ratner.

And get this: no proof of purchase is needed for claims. All you do, is make the claim online.

The lawsuit was filed by Benjamin Careathers who alleged Red Bull was “misleading customers” by making claims about the “functional beverage” and its ability to “give you wings” despite reports concluding energy drinks had the same benefit as the average dose of caffeine consumed in coffee, reports NBC News.

Red Bull did not respond to requests for comment by NBC News but in previously issued a statement that said it had settled the lawsuit to “avoid the cost and distraction of litigation” and maintains that its marketing has “always been truthful and accurate.”

Descendants Of “Aunt Jemima” Are Suing For $2 Billion

October 7th, 2014 - By Tonya Garcia
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aunt jemima

Current Aunt Jemima logo via Quaker

The heirs of an early face of “Aunt Jemima” are suing Quaker Oats for $2 billion for their contribution thus far and future sales.

The original Aunt Jemima appeared in 1890. Nancy Green was born a slave in Kentucky in 1834. She died in 1923, a free woman, after being struck by a car in Chicago.  Quaker Oats acquired the company in the 1920s and Anna Short Harrington became the new Aunt Jemima in the 1930s. Her descendants say she, Green and the other spokeswomen were more than just the face of the brand.

“The federal suit, filed in Chicago in August by two great-grandsons of Anna Short Harrington, says that she and Green were key in formulating the recipe for the nation’s first self-rising pancake mix, and that Green came up with the idea of adding powdered milk for extra flavor,” writes USA Today. Harrington’s family say she added “potato grease” to the recipe. And Green is credited with adding powdered milk to the flour.

Quaker Oats, which still owns the Aunt Jemima brand and is a subsidiary of PepsiCo, says that the actual Aunt never existed.

“The image symbolizes a sense of caring, warmth, hospitality and comfort and is neither based on, nor meant to depict any one person,” the company said in a statement. It should be noted that the image above is a much more recent one, introduced in 1989. You can see the original “Mammy” figure here, which accompanies an interesting interview with the founder of the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia, located in Michigan.

Documents associated with the lawsuit include Green’s appearance in Aunt Jemima ads. There are no contracts that have been found between Green or any of the other models and anyone associated with the Aunt Jemima company. However, given the time period and the way things were, that shouldn’t be a surprise. Experts say there’s a statute of limitations on any claims of being misled in a contract.

We’ve come to love Aunt Jemima products so much that it’s easy to forget the troubled past of this brand and many others that bear the images and involvement of Black Americans. In fairness, it seems Quaker should offer something to these descendants even if they don’t have all of the paperwork to prove every claim. Certainly, they have to recognize that all of the contributors to this successful brand didn’t get what they deserve.

Patti LaBelle’s Bodyguard On Trial For Beating Cadet, Causes Alleged Brain Injury

September 18th, 2014 - By Veronica Wells
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Patti LaBelle's Bodyguard

Source: WENN

Now we all love Auntie/Mama Patti. But we can’t help but notice that she certainly deals with her fair share of drama, even in past few years. Remember the instance where she allegedly assaulted a woman and her young daughter? Patti eventually settled but there seems to be some more trouble coming her way with another, more severe violent attack.

According to the Associated Press, an ex-West Point cadet is claiming that LaBelle ordered her bodyguard, Efrem Holmes, to beat him up. The beat down allegedly resulted in a brain injury, forcing him to drop out of military academy.

This past November Holmes was acquitted for misdemeanor assault.

But King filed a countersuit. The case went from civil to federal court. The trial is expected to last a week and LaBelle, who was in court on Tuesday, is expected to testify

The lawsuit, filed by cadet Richard King, states that he was waiting for his family to pick him up at the Bush Intercontinental Airport in 2011 when LaBelle’s bodyguard and two others attacked him. King was on spring break from West Point.

King sued LaBelle, LaBelle’s manager and her son, her bodyguard and her hair dresser Norma Harris.

Though Raley had a blood alcohol level three times the legal driving limit, his attorney said he wasn’t driving and not a threat to anyone.

King claims he was minding his own business outside the airport when he was attacked, without provocation by a 400-pound Holmes, Edwards and Harris.

King later dropped out of West Point because he said he suffered a traumatic brain injury after hitting his head on a concrete pillar.

LaBelle’s attorney, Geoffrey Bracken, told jurors that King was the aggressor, who punched Edwards first. LaBelle’s attorneys claimed King hurled racial insults at the singer before he attacked her son. They also claim that King was told several times to step away from LaBelle’s vehicle after he tried to open the passenger door.

LaBelle’s attorneys alleged if he had not been drinking this never would have happened.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages.