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Luv2Roam
04-01-2003, 08:37 PM
Dig through Disney trash OK, Pooh case lawyer says
Reuters, 04.01.03, 8:25 PM ET

By Peter Henderson

LOS ANGELES, April 1 (Reuters) - Lawyers suing Walt Disney Co. (nyse: DIS - news - people) over a honey pot of marketing rights to Winnie the Pooh said on Tuesday they dug through Disney's trash for information but contended their actions were legal.

Stephen Slesinger Inc., which holds the U.S. rights to the cuddly bear created by British author A.A. Milne, has been suing Burbank, California-based Disney for over a decade, claiming it was shortchanged in royalties by Disney, which gets roughly $1 billion each year in Pooh-related revenue.

Disney asked a Los Angeles Superior Court judge in February to throw out the case because, it alleged, Slesinger's lawyers suppressed some information and hired investigators who broke into Disney offices and rummaged through company trash.

"Stringing together a disparate group of unsubstantiated accusations and expressing them in a tirade of inflammatory rhetoric and gross distortions of the record does not add up to a single proven charge," Slesinger lawyers said in their rebuttal to Disney, ahead of a May 8 hearing.

"The retrieval of documents from Disney's publicly accessible trash bins was not a violation of Disney's rights," since it was discarded papers from a publicly accessible dumpster, they said, adding there was no "competent evidence" that anyone broke into Disney offices.

Disney lawyer Daniel Petrocelli told Reuters that his opponents had been found "hiding the ball" by keeping crucial documents under wraps for years and by hiring thieves.

"They really admit doing a number of things that they have been caught doing," such as searching through the trash, he said, claiming the evidence of illegal entry onto Disney property to look through trash and steal documents was clear.

Most of the events in question happened years ago. Disney wants to interview again the key witnesses in the case, including Shirley Lasswell, widow of Stephen Slesinger, and their daughter, Pati Slesinger.

Petrocelli said both had refused, but Bert Fields, the lawyer for the women, said Lasswell was too sick while Pati Slesinger, who had been deposed nine times over the years, would consent to do so if she were guaranteed it was the final time.

Copyright 2003, Reuters News Service