LPWire: Slesinger Lawyer Reacts to Disney Motion in Pooh Case
'Pooh' Lawyer Reacts to Disney Motion Desperate Attempt to Cover Up Disney's Own Document Destruction, Says Bert Fields
The lawyer for the Slesinger family, which has been in a decade-long legal battle with The Walt Disney Company over Winnie the Pooh royalties, reacted to Disney's filing today of a motion to dismiss the suit. "It's a desperate attempt to take everybody's eye off the ball in this case, which they are losing badly," said Bert Fields. "It's an attempt by Disney to do an end-run around the court's sanctions for Disney's knowing destruction of thousands of documents in this case."
Included in the hundreds of boxes and thousands of documents destroyed were 50 files of the Disney executive who negotiated and signed the contract and even a file marked "Winnie the Pooh Legal Problems." According to Fields, some documents were destroyed as late as 1998, long after the family had requested their production.
On November 21, the California Court of Appeals dismissed Disney's appeal of the sanctions order. As a result, when the case goes to trial later this year, the jury will be instructed to accept as fact versions of events put forth by the family that granted the Pooh rights to Disney. "This worries Disney no end," said Fields. "They've been sanctioned for their conduct, but they can't live with it."
"As for taking documents from Disney's trash, not only is it perfectly legal and done all the time, it happened more than 8 years ago and Disney's known about it for 8 years and made no complaint. Now they pretend they're outraged. This motion is not just about garbage, it is garbage."
Plaintiff's president is Shirley Slesinger Lasswell, the 79-year-old widow of licensing pioneer Stephen Slesinger, who teamed up with Pooh author A. A. Milne and illustrator E. H. Shepherd in the 1930s to expand Pooh beyond the confines of his books.
After her husband died, Mrs. Lasswell extended Pooh product and service uses in the U.S. and Canada. In 1961, she granted Pooh rights to Walt Disney himself, and, in return, Milne and Slesinger received a share of gross revenues generated by Pooh product and service uses worldwide.
--Posted February 4, 2003
Source: The Slesinger Family