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1. No Doubt Enforces their Faces
Highest Court California Court of Appeal
Year Ended 2011
Plaintiffs No Doubt
Defendants Activision
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description When No Doubt agreed to license their likenesses for use in the "Band Hero" video game, they did not know the extent to which Activision, the game's developer, would utilize the computer-generated images (CGI) of the band members. No Doubt allowed Activision to use their CGI personas for advertising, packaging, etc., but Activision went much further, hiring lookalikes to act out the members' performances in order to create fully-functioning CGI characters that players could use in the game after "unlocking" them at various levels. No Doubt sued for violation of their publicity and deceptive business practices, and, regarding the contract they signed, fraudulent inducement, breach, and rescission. The state court initially removed the case to federal court saying Plaintiffs' actions were preempted by the Copyright Act, but the federal court disagreed and remanded back to state court; publicity rights were not synonymous with copyrights, since names and likenesses are not copyrightable at all, and the contract-related actions were also not copyright-related. Back in state court, Defendants filed an Anti-SLAPP motion to dismiss, which is a special motion, intended to protect First Amendment rights, that allows Defendants to dismiss claims that 1) relate to protected speech and 2) are unlikely to prevail at trial. Unfortunately for Defendants, the court sided with Plaintiffs. Regarding the publicity claims, the court found that life-like CGI versions of the band members were not "transformative," and thus protected speech, but were "conventional, more or less fungible, images" of the members that the band had the right to control. As to unfair competition claims, the court also found that Activision's use of the likenesses would confuse the public even if it was not "explicitly misleading," which some courts have required. Since Plaintiffs were likely to prevail on their claims, the Anti-SLAPP motion failed. - LSW


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2. Phil Spector's Murder Conviction
Highest Court California Court of Appeal
Year Ended 2011
Plaintiffs State Prosecutor(s)
Defendants Spector, Phil
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description Phil Spector was once one of the most successful producers in the music business. After his high-points in the 1960s, he became an infamous Hollywood recluse, living alone in an immense mansion. He has long been known to be eccentric, to put it lightly. This case followed the shooting death of actress Lana Clarkson, for which Spector was convicted. These opinions deal largely with evidentiary and procedural issues, including the admissibility of Spector's earlier statement that "all women deserve a bullet in their head." Yikes. - [This entry is not yet complete or has not been edited/checked.]


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3. Songwriter's Royalties in a Bind
Highest Court California Court of Appeal
Year Ended 2011
Plaintiffs Financial Institution(s)
Defendants Financial Institution(s)
Pullman, David
Other Page, Gene
Short Description This lawsuit is one of several over the last few years involving the financial transaction of David Pullman, a somewhat well-known figure in the music industry for his role in creating so-called "Bowie Bonds," named after David Bowie, the artist who first used them. Bowie Bonds are investment vehicles wherein purchasers buy debt from recording artists, to be repaid, with interest, through royalty payments owed to the artist. This lawsuit appears to involve this same sort of transaction regarding the royalty interests of songwriter Gene Page. Page's family took loans from Plaintiff, a financial company that loans money to artists to be repaid from royalties, but was also involved, to some extent, with Pullman and his entities. Pullman's parties offered to investigate some suspect financial transactions between Plaintiff and Page's family, including a loan to a family member of Plaintiff's owners, and Plaintiff assigned to Pullman the rights to do so. After Pullman brought suit against Plaintiffs for numerous causes of action, including conversion, fraud, interference, civil conspiracy, and numerous equitable actions not specifically listed in this entry, Plaintiff sought to enforce an arbitration agreement contained in one, and only one, of the many loan agreements between Plaintiff and the Pages. The American Arbitration Association (AAA) found the arbitration agreement enforceable, and the parties submitted to arbitration, which ended in Pullman/Page's favor for over $1/2 million. This lawsuit was brought by Plaintiff to vacate the arbitration award, alleging no court of law ever found the agreement binding. Though the AAA had upheld the provision, the court agreed and concluded that no court of law had upheld it, and thus the arbitration was not binding. If a party objects to arbitration, the resulting award cannot be binding absent a judicial determination. The award was vacated, and a court must now determine whether arbitration is mandatory. - LSW


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4. Indie Artists Sue For Mag's Ad
Highest Court California Court of Appeal
Year Ended 2010
Plaintiffs Fucked Up
Xiu Xiu
Defendants Newspaper Publisher(s)
Rolling Stone Magazine
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description Two "indie rock" bands, featured in a Rolling Stone fold-out special on the genre, sued the magazine claiming the feature's proximity to a Camel advertisement lauding independent bands implied association between the two and falsely indicated the bands approved the advertisement. The court held, inter alia, that there is no likelihood of mistaken association, due in part to the difference in designs, and that Defendants did not display any "actual malice," as the California constitution requires. Defendant's special motion to strike Plainiff's complaint under the state's anti-SLAPP statute was granted by the appellate court, thus reversing the decision below. - LSW


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5. Plaintiff: "Too $hort Owes Me!"
Highest Court California Court of Appeal
Year Ended 2010
Plaintiffs Individual(s)
Defendants County Entity and/or Official(s)
Other Too Short [$hort]
Short Description This is a lawsuit resulting from Too $hort's bankruptcy proceedings, in which Plaintiff, a previously victorious Plaintiff in a suit against $hort, sued the County of Los Angeles, alleging negligence in their failure to secure a $50,000+ judgment he was awarded in his first suit. Since Too $hort's money is in too short supply, Plaintiff sought to attach wages earned from MTV, but the Sheriff failed to do so. The court here alleges Plaintiff has no cause against the county fpr failure to attach $hort's earnings; a finding of negligence by Country officials requires officials breaching statutory duties, which did not occur here. - LSW


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6. Photographer: "Marley Photos Are Mine!"
Highest Court California Court of Appeal
Year Ended 2010
Plaintiffs Photographer(s)
Defendants Individual(s)
Music Merchandiser(s)
Other Marley, Bob
Short Description In a different case, "Bob Marley Bootleggers Busted," Defendant A.V.E.L.A., a music merchandiser, was sued by the exclusive licensee of Bob Marley's publicity rights and trademarks for improperly using Marley's likeness and names on various merchandise. This related case was brought by the photographer who provided the infringing photographs to A.V.E.L.A. After the first lawsuit erupted, A.V.E.L.A. withheld royalty payments to Plaintiff, alleging any payments he was due to receive were offset by their litigation costs from the Marley lawsuit. Plaintiff alleged that Defendants' legal issues were unrelated to his own responsibilities under the parties' agreements, and costs should not have been counted against him. Plaintiff asked for and was granted a preliminary injunction preventing A.V.E.L.A. from using moneys owed to Plaintiff to cover legal costs from the other suit. On appeal, the injunction was affirmed. The injunction was not overly broad; though the licensing agreement dictated amounts Plaintiff was to be paid, Defendants were not able to show that these were the only amounts he would be granted if successful. Furthermore, the appellate court did not find the trial court abused its discretion in finding both that Plaintiff would suffer irreparable harm without injunctive relief and that there was a reasonable probability that Plaintiff would prevail on his claim. - LSW


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7. Contract with Chipmunks Breached
Highest Court California Court of Appeal
Year Ended 2010
Plaintiffs Business Entity of Artist(s)
Defendants Capitol Records
Other Bogdasarian, Ross
Chipmunks
Short Description Alvin and the Chipmunks first came to prominence during the 1960s, but long after their creator died, his son revived the business in the 1980s, which turned out to be immensely popular among kids of the day and ever since. This lawsuit arose from a contract signed in 1968 between Ross Bagdasarian, the Chipmunk's creator, and Capitol Records, the successor-in-interest to Liberty Records, with whom Bagdasarian agreed the Chipmunk's albums would be made. However, over the years since, Capitol has licensed the sound recordings for many other purposes, such as background music in television and movies. This lawsuit alleged that such licensing overstepped the terms of the contract, which only provided Capitol the rights to make phonograph reproductions. Despite the 40 years that had passed since the contracts were signed, the court held that Plaintiff's actions were not barred by statutes of limitation or the doctrine of laches. Furthermore, the court interpreted the contract according to Plaintiff's reading; the agreement only gave Defendant permission to make records, but not to license the songs. Defendants' extrinsic evidence only reinforced this interpretation. Though copyrights do not apply to pre-1972 sound recordings, such as those subject to the 1968 contract, Plaintiff's intangible property right in the recordings were based in a California statute preventing "plagiarism" under an unfair competition rubric. The appellate court reversed the trial court's finding for Defendant as a matter of law. - LSW


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8. Jerry Garcia's Legacy Lawsuit
Highest Court California Court of Appeal
Year Ended 2010
Plaintiffs Family of Artist(s)
Defendants Business Entity of Artist(s)
Family of Artist(s)
Other Garcia, Jerry
Grateful Dead
Short Description As would be expected, Jerry Garcia's death caused significant turmoil that continued long afterward. Iconic personalities like Garcia, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, et. al., tend to leave litigation legacies in their wake. When Garcia died, his children and other heirs fought harshly for rights to his assets and, with court urging, formed an LLC to handle and distribute the moneys. This case arose from the windup up of the LLC. The LLC's manager filed claims in arbitration, according to the contract, though Plaintiff, Garcia's widow, did not answer or file any claims during dissolution. Instead Plaintiff brought suit in court. Plaintiff eventually participated in the arbitration, again without filing claims, and the arbitrator found for Plaintiff on two of the issues in the arbitration. Plaintiff brought suit to be granted attorneys' fees, as dictated by the contract. The judge confirmed the arbitration award but refused to hold Plaintiff to be the "prevailing party," required by the contract, and thus no attorneys' fees were granted. On Plaintiff's appeal, the lower court's holding was affirmed. The trial judge did not exceed his powers in refusing to recognize Plaintiff as the "prevailing party," and did not rely on illegitimate reasons. The arbitration confirmation was affirmed. - LSW


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9. Village Person vs. Village People
Highest Court California Court of Appeal
Year Ended 2010
Plaintiffs Business Entity of Artist(s)
Defendants Band Member(s)
Other Village People
Short Description The Village People, though their name and image was been well-preserved through the years and has undoubtedly become a staple reference in American pop culture, enjoyed only a brief period of success, between the years 1977 and 1979. The band was formed by a production company that owned all associated trademarks to the band's name and image. In their initial existence, Defendant was the "cop" persona and a lead singer in the band. After Defendant left the band in 1979, the group re-grouped numerous times with different members. Plaintiff in this case is the corporate entity formed by the other members, which received permission from the trademarks' owner. Near the end of the first decade of the 2000s, Defendant began to threaten Plaintiff and the band's new members, alleging their performances constituted "fakes" and consistently reiterating that he intended to "dry up" their commercial feasibility. He even attended various events in his cop uniform and intimated what appeared to be gun shot hand motions. After the sent a cease and desist letter and communicated with various third parties that intended to book the band, all explaining his intention to sue the band, Plaintiff brought actions for interference with contracts and business, unfair trade practices, and more. Defendant counter-claimed and asserted several affirmative defenses. Of importance to this court opinion, Defendant cited California's "Anti-SLAPP" statute, which allows Defendants to strike complaints that chill protected speech activities. Unfortunately for Defendant, the court found, first, that Plaintiff's suit arose from much more than his letter, a "pre-litigation communication," but also from his numerous other actions and blatant attempts to interfere with their success. Second, they had demonstrated a probable success on the merits of their complaint. Thus, Defendants' Anti-SLAPP motion was denied. - LSW


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10. Felicianos Fight Over Royalties
Highest Court California Court of Appeal
Year Ended 2009
Plaintiffs Spouse of Artist(s)
Defendants Feliciano, Jose
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description Plaintiff is Jose Feliciano's ex-wife, with whom he wrote a series of hits during their marriage throughout much of the 1970s. Now, over 30 years after their marriage was dissolved, Plaintiff sued to recover unpaid royalties that were supposedly hers as community property. In an appeal from an interlocutory order, the court held that royalties more than 10 years before the filing of the action in 1999 were not recoverable. The court also held that whether record royalties were community property must be litigated below, and that sanctions might be appropriate. - LSW


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11. More Money for Crickets & Hollies?
Highest Court California Court of Appeal
Year Ended 2009
Plaintiffs MCA Records
Defendants Family of Artist(s)
Former Band Member(s)
Spouse of Artist(s)
Other Holly, Buddy (and the Crickets)
Petty, Norman
Short Description Buddy Holly was one of the most promising of the early rock n' roll stars, writing and producing his own music, but his life was cut short by the infamously tragic plane crash in 1959 that also killed Richie Valens and The Big Bopper. In this case, brought in 1999, Holly's widow, heirs, and former members of the Crickets sued MCA Records for unpaid royalties due on contracts signed in the 1950s but amended numerous times thereafter, alleging breach of contract and fiduciary duty, as well as fraud, conversion, and more. On motions for summary judgment, the court held the contract actions not barred by the statute of limitations regarding the previous four years, but found the fraud and duty claims not actionable. The court found MCA liable for over $500,000 in unpaid royalties owed on sales since 1995. Because each royalty underpayment was an individual wrong, the court allowed Plaintiffs recovery on those within the statutory period, but did not agree with Plaintiff's "delayed discovery" argument regarding earlier underpayment. On appeal, the California court of appeals affirmed, finding all but the contract awards properly disposed. Plaintiffs' award was increased, however, since the lower court had inappropriately allowed MCA to deduct "packaging costs" according to practices enshrined in Holly's contracts, but which were long-outdated by the time the contracts were signed. MCA needed to present evidence of actual packaging costs, not industry customs with no real bearing on reality. Since MCA presented no such evidence, no packaging costs were deducted, and the award was increased by $75,000. - LSW


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12. TV Producer vs. KISS Documentary
Highest Court California Court of Appeal
Year Ended 2009
Plaintiffs Television Producer(s)
Defendants Television Network(s)
Television Producer(s)
Other KISS
Short Description Plaintiff, a segment producer from Gene Simmon's TV show, "Family Jewels," sued for misappropriation of identity and claimed his brief appearance as himself on the show "lacked consent." The court found for Defendant, Plaintiff consented. - [This entry is not yet complete or has not been edited/checked.]


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13. Korn's Singer: "Plaintiff is Demented!"
Highest Court California Court of Appeal
Year Ended 2009
Plaintiffs Individual(s)
Defendants Band Member(s)
Other Korn
Short Description Jonathan Davis, the lead singer for nu-metal pioneers, Korn, was once a fond collector of serial killer memorabilia, and even contemplated financing a museum for the purpose of displaying that kind of stuff. Plaintiff was the party with whom Davis contracted to organize and fund such a museum. However, when Davis changed his mind, the two entered a settlement in which Davis granted to Plaintiff a Volkswagen vehicle previously owned by Ted Bundy, two clown suits previously owned by John Wayne Gacey, four paintings by John Wayne Gacey, a confession signed by Albert Fish, and five drawings by Richard Ramirez. As part of the settlement, Davis promised not to disparage Plaintiff, his venture, or the materials. However, shortly thereafter, Davis did precisely that, calling the stuff "sick shit" and publicly distancing himself from such "negative" things. When plaintiff sued for violation of the agreement and fraud, Davis sought to dismiss, citing California's Anti-SLAPP act, which can dispose of complaints brought against protected expression unless Plaintiffs can demonstrate a likelihood of success. In this case, the court held Plaintiff met the burden. Davis's comments breached the settlement and caused diminution in the memorabilia's value. Further, Plaintiff made a prima facie showing of fraud. Defendant's Anti-SLAPP motion denied. Though, in all fairness, this is sick shit. - LSW


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14. Madonna Wayne Gacy vs. Marilyn Manson
Highest Court California Court of Appeal
Year Ended 2009
Plaintiffs Former Band Member(s)
Defendants Lawyer(s)
Marilyn Manson
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description Madonna Wayne Gacy, a former member of Marilyn Manson's band, sued the band and other related entities for 24 different causes of action, including breach of contract, interference with contract, breach of fiduciary duties, and numerous other actions, arising from his lack of royalty payments and various other wrongs. Apparently, Plaintiff had been an original member when the band was formed as an equal partnership by written agreement in 1989, through which the members were to share in touring, publishing, record revenues and merchandise. Over time, when they became more successful, all original members except Gacy and Manson slowly exited the band for various reasons, including one Daisy Berkowitz, resulting in various other lawsuits. According to Gacy's complaint, Manson used band funds for personal use, cut off Gacy's salary and credit card, limited Gacy's access to musical equipment, ignored Gacy's workers' compensation inquiries, and tried unilaterally converting the band's partnership into an employer-employee relationship. The issue of this suit was whether Gacy's complaints against the lawyers, alleging breach of fiduciary duties, unfair competition, and breach of partnership, should be stricken as arising from privileged communications sent pre-litigation in letters to Gacy. The lawyers argued any misrepresentations made to Gacy were unintentional and made as Manson's counsel on Manson's behalf, while Plaintiff argued the lawyers knew of their misrepresentations (from previously representing Plaintiff himself) and made them outside the scope of litigation. The court held that all three of Gacy's actions arose from privileged content of letters written to Gacy in contemplation of litigation, and thus Plaintiff cannot use them as the basis for a legal complaint. Though Gacy denied anticipating legal action when the letters were received, he had obtained his own counsel to reply, and facts clearly indicated lawsuits were contemplated. The California appellate court affirmed Defendants' special motion to strike and dismissed Gacy's actions against the lawyers. - LSW


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15. Lil Wayne Unhappy with Quincy's Film
Highest Court California Court of Appeal
Year Ended 2009
Plaintiffs Business Entity of Artist(s)
Lil' Wayne
Defendants Film Producer(s)
Jones, Quincy
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description This case involved a dispute regarding an agreement between Lil' Wayne and Defendant to produce a 90-minute biographical film about Lil' Wayne's life. Lil' Wayne argued that Defendant breached a provision in the contract granting him "a sole right of final approval" for scenes that might depict him engaged in criminal behavior, or that might adversely affect his pending gun possession and drug possession cases in New York and Arizona, respectively. The Defendant allegedly breached this provision by including a scene in the film depicting Lil' Wayne engaging in criminal activity by "misusing medication," despite Lil Wayne's objections to that scene's inclusion in the film. Lil' Wayne sought a preliminary injunction against Defendant, but the contract that he signed contained an anti-injunction provision. Despite Lil' Wayne's argument that the anti-injunction provision is unconscionable since Defendant refused to negotiate it, the Court enforced the provision, denying Lil' Wayne an injunction. Judgment for Defendant. - SKR


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16. Augustana Management Woes
Highest Court California Court of Appeal
Year Ended 2009
Plaintiffs Music Manager(s)
Defendants Augustana
Music Manager(s)
Sony BMG Music Entertainment
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description Augustana was among the numerous somewhat "emo"-influenced modern rock bands to emerge during the middle of the new millennium's first decade, catapulted into the spotlight by their song "Boston," which was prominently featured in an episode of "One Tree Hill." After several more albums on Epic Records, the band is, as of spring 2011, still around and signed to Epic. However, relevant to this suit, they now have new management. This suit was brought by their original managers, who were fired by the band in favor of new management suggested by Sony, Epic's parent company. The managers sued the band for breaching their contract, and the band countersued for breach of fiduciary duty; this suit was set for arbitration, as dictated by the contract. However, simultaneously, the managers sued Sony and the band's A&R rep at Sony, alleging the Sony parties encouraged the band to ditch its managers, an act that constituted interference (negligent or intentional) with business relations. Because the contract action was to be arbitrated, the court here held that the interference actions should be stayed pending arbitration. Though the legal theories and issues presented are rather different, there were overlapping evidentiary issues, including documents, witnesses, etc., that would be identical between the two suits. For this reason, the Sony suit was stayed. - LSW


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17. Randy Jackson Faces the Judges
Highest Court California Court of Appeal
Year Ended 2008
Plaintiffs Green Trio Music
Defendants Carey, Mariah
Cole, Lionel
Individual(s)
Jackson, Randy
Music Publisher(s)
Other No Other parties on file
Short Description Randy Jackson was a partner in a publishing firm that sued Jackson for breach of fiduciary duty through dealings with third party. The suit was barred by statute of limitations. - [This entry is not yet complete or has not been edited/checked.]


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18. Family of Jazz Singer Says: "Settle!"
Highest Court California Court of Appeal
Year Ended 2008
Plaintiffs Blix Street Records
Defendants Business Entity of Artist(s)
Family of Artist(s)
Individual(s)
Other Cassidy, Eva
Short Description The family of deceased jazz vocalist, Eva Cassidy, successfully reached a settlement agreement with Plaintiff, a record label with which they'd contracted to release Eva's recordings, and tried to enforce the agreement in court. While the lower court upheld the agreement, the appellate court found it lacked some necessary signatures and could not be enforced. - LSW


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19. Bing's Company Wants Royalties
Highest Court California Court of Appeal
Year Ended 2008
Plaintiffs Business Entity of Artist(s)
Family of Artist(s)
Trust of Artist(s)
Defendants GRP Records
MCA Records
Universal Records
Universal Studios
Other Crosby, Bing
Short Description HLC Properties, the corporation responsible for the business interests, intellectual property rights, and general commercial exploitation of Bing Crosby's career, sued MCA Records and associated entities for numerous counts arising from the latter breaching recording contracts entered with Bing over the years. They alleged breach of contract, implied covenants, and fiduciary duties, as well as numerous equitable remedies. During discovery, Plaintiffs claimed attorney-client privilege transferred from Bing Crosby to HLC Properties, while Defendants claimed Bing's privilege attached to his estate; HLC could not claim the privilege, since it did not apply to them. The court agreed with Defendants, holding the initial privilege attached to Bing personally, and not HLC, thus HLC could not claim attorney client privilege regarding documents exchanged between Bing and his attorneys. After discovery, the court granted summary judgment regarding certain claims, such as breach of fiduciary duties, in Defendants' favor, but decided contractual breach theories on the merits, without a jury, in Plaintiffs' favor. The appellate court found that, while the summary adjudication had been correctly granted, the contract claims were legal in nature, not equitable, and thus Plaintiffs' claims, even though decided in Plaintiffs' favor, nevertheless should have been tried before a jury, as Plaintiff claimed. Those issues were remanded for retrial according to proper procedures. - LSW


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20. Battle Over Doors' Name
Highest Court California Court of Appeal
Year Ended 2008
Plaintiffs Business Entity of Artist(s)
Densmore, John
Estate of Artist(s)
Defendants Astbury, Ian
Doors of the 21st Century
Kreiger, Robby
Manzarek, Ray
Music Promoter(s)
Other Cult
Doors
Morrison, Jim
Short Description John Densmore and other assorted Doors-related parties sued Ray Manzarek, Robby Kreiger, Ian Astbury (of The Cult!), and other associated entities for touring under the name "The Doors of the 21st Century," alleging numerous causes of action arising from the band's moniker's intentional similarity to the original Doors' name. The holding in Plaintiffs' favor led to Manzarek's subsequent insurance suit in "Who Insures Doors' Litigation?" - [This entry is not yet complete or has not been edited/checked.]


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