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Peter Bronson: Anna Nicole, Smothers Brothers and others in court

This week, I’ve been reading news about court cases involving celebrities, bizarre claims or both.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has overturned the lower court decision that had given the late Vickie Lynn Marshall (aka Anna Nicole Smith) a claim to $300 million from the estate of her late nonagenarian husband J. Howard Marshall II. The fortune will apparently go to Mr. Marshall’s daughter, rather than to the estate of Ms. Smith’s late son.

The 9th Circuit ruled on procedural grounds: The federal courts in California should have deferred to an earlier Texas court ruling against Ms. Smith.



After 50-plus years in show business, the end may be near for the Smothers Brothers. Younger brother Dick Smothers has filed for bankruptcy in Florida, stating that brother Tommy is “contemplating a complete cessation of his entertainment work” and that Dick has an uncertain flow of income and bookings.

According to court papers, Dick Smothers filed for bankruptcy because creditors were becoming aggressive and he could not make payments on his real estate obligations. Smothers alleges that he owes unsecured creditors $834,790.62, and secured creditors about $1,873,458.23.




Speaking of Texas, a recent federal court ruling from that state suggests it might be a bad idea to mail live birds.

According to the Southeast Texas Record, a Texas man bought racing pigeons in California, went to the post office and mailed the birds home by Express Mail. He sued the U.S. Postal Service, alleging that, although the post office had promised next-day delivery, the birds arrived four days after shipment, not only late but dead.

The court dismissed the lawsuit on procedural grounds.

And speaking of birds, two Illinois residents have filed a would-be class action lawsuit against the company that owns Blimpie restaurants, alleging Blimpie’s Super Stacked turkey sandwiches do not contain double portions of meat as advertised.

According to the Madison-St. Clair Record, Blimpie does sell regular turkey sandwiches; in comparison, the Super Stacked sandwiches do not contain double the turkey.

The plaintiffs want damages up to $75,000 per person.

A California court has ruled that lawyers are not automatically the guarantors of their clients’ honesty.

When parties represented by counsel sign a written contract, they often have their respective lawyers sign off on the agreement – not as parties but as simply having approved the form of the agreement. This is done to make it clear that the parties had their lawyers review the document.

A Los Angeles lawyer sued not just the opposing party but the opposing party’s attorney, on the ground that the party had entered into an agreement fraudulently and that the attorney, by “approving as to form and content,” should share in the fraud liability.

The California Court of Appeal (Freedman v. Brutzkus) now has affirmed the dismissal of the lawsuit, stating that the fact that a lawyer has advised a client concerning an agreement does not make the lawyer liable for misrepresentations made by the client.

Nevada County resident Peter C. Bronson practices law in the areas of creditors’ rights, insolvency and business litigation. Contact him at pbronson@pbronsonlaw.com.


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