Justia Weekly Writers’ Picks: Wake Me Up When the Law Suit Ends

Seltzer v. Green Day, Inc., et al., US 9th Cir. (8/7/13)
Copyright, Intellectual Property, Trademark

Plaintiff filed suit against Green Day and others, alleging violations of the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. 101 et seq., aCopyright Symbolnd the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1051 et seq., because Green Day used plaintiff’s illustration, “Scream Icon,” in the video backdrop of its stage show. On appeal, plaintiff challenged the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Green Day on all claims and the grant of attorney’s fees to Green Day under the Copyright Act. The court concluded that Green Day’s use of the illustration was fair use under the Copyright Act where the purpose and character of the use was transformative and not overly commercial; the nature of the work included its status as a widely disseminated work of street art; Green Day’s use of the work was not excessive in light of its transformative purpose; and Green Day’s use did not affect the value of the piece or of plaintiff’s artwork in general. In regards to plaintiff’s claims under the Lanham Act, the court concluded that plaintiff failed to establish any trademark rights. The court concluded, however, that the district court clearly erred in finding that plaintiff’s claims were objectively unreasonable. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment but vacated the award of attorneys fees.

Read More: Green Day not liable for using artist’s work at concerts

Miami Valley Fair Hous. Ctr., Inc. v. Connor Grp., US 6th Cir. (8/5/13)
Civil Rights, Landlord-Tenant, Zoning, Planning & Land Use

Connor Group owns and manages about 15,000 rental units throughout the U.S., including about 1,900 in the Dayton area. Its rental agent posted an ad on Craigslist: 599/1br – Great Bachelor Pad! (Centerville) … Our one bedroom apartments are a great bachelor pad for any single man looking to hook up. This apartment includes a large bedroom, walk in closet, patio, gourmet kitchen, washer dryer hook up and so much more….  A fair-housing organization sued, charging violation of the Fair Housing Act’s section 3604(c) and Ohio’s Revised Code section 4112.02(H)(7), claiming that the bachelor pad ad was facially discriminatory to families and women. The court provided a jury instruction that “The question is not whether the particular advertisement discourages some potential renters from applying … but whether such discouragement is the product of any discriminatory statement or indication in the advertisement. If an ordinary reader who is a member of a protected class would be discouraged from answering the advertisement because of some discriminatory statement or indication contained therein, then the fair housing laws have been violated.” The trial court ruled in favor of the landlord. The Sixth Circuit reversed and remanded for a new trial based on the erroneous instruction.

Read More: Ohio fair housing group gets new trial in discrimination suit over ‘bachelor pad’ apartment ad

Scott v. Chuhak & Tecson, PC, US 7th Cir. (8/5/13)
Legal Ethics, Professional Malpractice & Ethics, Trusts & Estates

The Kivers retained C&T, an Illinois law firm, to prepare trusts to benefit their daughters, Diane and Maureen, among others. Maureen and Diane each served as trustee of various trusts. Maureen died in 2007. Her husband, Minor, represents Maureen’s estate, which filed suit against C&T, alleging that C&T failed to disclose the existence and terms of certain trusts to Maureen, to her detriment, and failed to make distributions to her. The estate filed a separate state court suit against Diane, alleging that Diane breached her duties as trustee by failing to disclose the existence of certain trusts to Maureen or make distributions to her. Diane was a client of C&T during the relevant period.  The district court entered an agreed protective order governing discovery disclosure to deal with privilege issues and denied the estate’s motion to compel production. The estate violated the protective order. The district court imposed sanctions and dismissed several of the estate’s claims. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, stating that “The complexity of the multiple trusts … the untimely death of Maureen, the pursuit of concurrent state and federal suits … the length of this litigation, and the disorderly nature of the estate’s presentation… evoke a middle installment of Bleak House.”

Read More: Court Sanctions Estate for Discovery Leaks

In re Estate of Hannifin, Utah Supreme Court (8/2/13)
Family Law, Trusts & Estates

William Hannifin took Willis Nakai when he was fourteen years old and raised him as his own child. Nakai’s biological parents did not assert parental control over him or support him financially. Hannifin and Nakai referred to each other as father and son and held themselves out to the community as such. When Hannifin died, he was intestate and had no spouse or biological descendants. Nakai petitioned to be appointed as personal representative of Hannifin’s estate, and the district court granted the petition. Max Hill, acting on behalf of himself and other collateral relatives of Hannifin, contested Nakai’s claim to the estate. The trial court held that under the doctrine of equitable adoption, Nakai was entitled to inherit from Hannifin’s estate as though he were Hannifin’s legally adopted son. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the common law doctrine of equitable adoption is preempted by Utah’s enactment of the Probate Code; and (2) because Nakai did not qualify under the Probate Code’s intestate succession provisions, the district court erred in concluding that he was entitled to inherit from Hannifin. Remanded.

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