Wednesday, February 27, 2013

We Owe a Lot to Lindsay Lohan

There are a few important contributors to the law who seem to pop up  as examples or exemplars in my Legal Environment course on more than a few occasions during the semester. If I give it some thought, I can readily name a few that come to mind; Justices Oliver Wendell Holmes, Benjamin Cardozo and Antonin Scalia, Presidents John Adams, Woodrow Wilson and Abraham Lincoln, Economic Philosopher Adam Smith, and commentators Bill O'Reilly and Stephen Colbert and, of course, Lindsay Lohan.

With the addition of the case described below, the actress and celebrity accounts for three separate examples of legal principles applied to real facts.  First, there was the lawsuit for civil assault brought against her by the passenger in a car that she apparently chased at high speeds through the streets of LA in 2007; an incident that also resulted in her arrest.  It allows for explanation of all the elements of civil assault - apprehension or fear of imminent bodily harm without the element of physical contact.

Then, there was the $10M lawsuit against e-trade that was the subject of this post.

And now we have a federal court ruling in a lawsuit that Ms. Lohan brought against musical artist "Pit Bull" for the use of her name in the lyrics of his song, Give Me Everything.

This is insane: the way the name growin'

According to the complaint, the use of Ms. Lohan's name in the above quoted lyrics constituted an alleged violation of NY State Civil Rights law, and gave rise to claims for unjust enrichment and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Not surprisingly, the Defendant's 12(b)(6) motion was granted. Judge Hurley's decision may be read here. The lyrics are protected from the Civil Rights claim as artistic expression and fall well below the liability threshold of "extreme and outrageous conduct."

Although he rejected the imposition of sanctions under Rule 11 for filing a frivolous claim, the judge did not let plaintiff's counsel off the hook. His order imposes a $750 fine for alleged misrepresentations in a letter to the court and an additional $750 for filing an Opposition Brief with content plagiarized from websites and  prior filings and missing legal citation.

So, my thanks goes out to Lindsay Lohan.  Her contributions to the law allow my students to see past the stuffy and stayed reputation of the law as the province of dead rich white guys.

Give Me Everything by Pit Bull and friends:

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