“This Eight Dollar Dish Will Cost You A Thousand Dollars In Phone Calls To The Legal Firm Of That’s Mine, This Is Yours . . . .”

 by:  Peter J. Gallagher (@pjsgallagher) (LinkedIn)

One of my favorite scenes from "When Harry Met Sally" occurs when the late, great Bruno Kirby, and the late, great Carrie Fisher, whose characters are just moving in together, are arguing about a wagon wheel table that Kirby's character wants to put in their apartment. Then they ask Billy Crystal's character for his opinion about the table. Big mistake. Crystal had just run into his ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend. After a few seconds, Crystal launches into a rant about how things may be wonderful for Kirby and Fisher now, but a few years from now they will break up and will spend hours and hours, and thousands of dollars fighting over a "stupid, wagon wheel, Roy Rogers, garage sale coffee table."  

I was reminded of this scene when I read the Appellate Division's decision in Maciejczyk v. Maciejczyk. Instead of a wagon wheel coffee table, however, the parties in that case were fighting over a water filtration system. Regardless, they proved Crystal's point.

 

Continue reading ““This Eight Dollar Dish Will Cost You A Thousand Dollars In Phone Calls To The Legal Firm Of That’s Mine, This Is Yours . . . .””

Third Circuit Rejects Claim For “Defamation By Relation”

by:  Peter J. Gallagher (@pjsgallagher) (LinkedIn)

Defamation (pd)
Is it defamatory for a book to report that you are the child of a suspected Nazi? This was the question recently addressed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Soobzokov v. Lichtblau, an unpublished decision.

In Soobzokov, plaintiff sued the author and publisher of a book entitled, "The Nazis Next Door: How America Became a Safe Haven for Hitler's Men." In the book, the author argued that plaintiff's father was one of several former Nazis brought to the United States after World War II for "strategic purposes."  Among other things, the book described the challenges faced by the children of alleged Nazis, including plaintiff. When writing the book, the author spent nearly seven days with plaintiff and later communicated with him via email and telephone. According to the Third Circuit, plaintiff "makes a handful of appearances in the book — all of which emphasize his unwavering belief in his father's innocence."

After the book was published, plaintiff sued for defamation. His claim took two forms. First, he alleged that three references to him in the book were defamatory: a section that described his belief in his father's innocence as "an obsession;" a section that described his "determination to revive the investigation into his father's brutal murder — which had gone unsolved for nearly 25 years;" and a mention of him in the "Acknowledgements section, which plaintiff claimed could suggest that he assisted in the writing of the book, which could "lend[] [him] to be considered a traitor to his father before the entire world." Second, plaintiff alleged that these statements, even if they were not defamatory in their own right, were defamatory when combined with the negative comments about his father. The district court rejected both aspects of plaintiff's defamation claim and dismissed the complaint. Plaintiff appealed.

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In Case You Ever Find Yourself Fighting With Your Wife Over Your Ferraris . . .

by:  Peter J. Gallagher (@pjsgallagher) (LinkedIn)

Ferrari (pd)Right. I never do either. But if you do (or think you might in the future) then you might want to know about Durrani v. Wide World of Cars. In that case, plaintiff sued a car dealership and her ex-husband's former lawyers for delivering two Ferraris to her ex-husband, allegedly in violation of an order entered in their divorce action.

As the trial court described it, when plaintiff and her ex-husband were married, they lived an "extravagant lifestyle." Among other things,  they owned "twenty-five luxury cars worth approximately one million dollars, boats and properties." Of these assets, however, plaintiff was only on the title of two cars (and not the Ferraris). Nonetheless, during their divorce proceeding, plaintiff sought "exclusive possession" of the Ferraris, which were titled and registered to her ex-husband and stored at the defendant dealership's facilities. Consistent with this claim, plaintiff's counsel sent a letter to the dealership requesting that it not release or transfer the Ferraris to anyone, including plaintiff's ex-husband, and threatening to hold the dealership liable for damages if it did. At the end of the letter, counsel asked the dealership to agree to abide by the demand and indicated that if it did not agree, plaintiff would "immediately seek to serve [the dealership] with a court order." The dealership did not respond.

Around the same time plaintiff's counsel sent this letter, the family part entered an order in the divorce proceeding preventing either party from dissipating, selling, etc. any assets of the marriage, and specifically identified the Ferraris in a list of assets to which this restraint applied. Plaintiff's counsel sent a copy of the order to the dealership, purportedly placing it on notice of the terms.

 

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“This case concerns the Court’s authority to fulfill a Child’s request to hug and see her Father”

Father and daughter
So begins a recent decision from the Family Part, and it only tugs at your heart strings more as you read the rest of the opinion. I will not attempt to describe the court's decision in R.R. v. L.A.C. because I could not improve on the court's succinct and poignant recitation of this sad, then even more sad, then touching, and finally hopeful story of a broken family that is (hopefully) on its way to being repaired. The opinion is short and worth reading (but be forewarned, if you are prone to tears, then you should have tissues handy when you do).

Clark W. Griswold Would Be Proud: Citing Importance Of Summer Vacations, Family Part Permits Parent To Take Child Abroad

by:  Peter J. Gallagher (@pjsgallagher)

I loved the movie National Lampoon's Vacation as a kid but I did not truly appreciate it until I had children of my own and experienced family vacations from the parent perspective. This perspective may have been most eloquently summarized by Clark W. Griswold when he finally snaps near the end of his family's journey to Wally World:

I think you're all [expletive deleted] in the head. We're ten hours from the [expletive deleted] fun park and you want to bail out. Well I'll tell you something. This is no longer a vacation. It's a quest. It's a quest for fun. You're gonna have fun, and I'm gonna have fun . . . We're all gonna have so much [expletive deleted] fun we're gonna need plastic surgery to remove our [expletive deleted] smiles! You'll be whistling 'Zip-A-Dee Doo-Dah' out of your [expletive deleted]! I must be crazy! I'm on a pilgrimage to see a moose. Praise Marty Moose! Holy [expletive deleted]!

[For a similar take on family vacations, you can also check out Louis CK who describes his personal "vacation" as the few seconds he gets between closing the door on one side of the car and walking around to the driver's side before getting in and starting the real "vacation."]

I was reminded of these, admittedly cynical, impressions of family vacations when I read a recent decision, Lang v. Lang, from the Family Part. In that case, divorced parents fought over whether the mother could take their six-year-old son to Holland for the summer. Sprinkled throughout the court's opinion were descriptions of the importance of family vacations, including the following:

Vacations provide highly unique and valuable opportunities for a child to bond with parents and other family members, while creating highly positive and lasting  memories. The entire point of vacation travel is for adults and children alike to enjoy a invigorating break from the tedium of everyday schedules and responsibilities, and to mentally relax and rejuvenate by journeying to new  destinations, experiencing new sights and adventures, and simply enjoying themselves in as carefree a manner as possible.

The court obviously has fonder memories of family vacations than I do. I remember turning blue while driving through the safari at Six Flags in a Dodge Dart with the windows closed and no air conditioning. Nothing too invigorating about that.

 

Continue reading “Clark W. Griswold Would Be Proud: Citing Importance Of Summer Vacations, Family Part Permits Parent To Take Child Abroad”