Saturday, August 12, 2000

Disney owes $240M after losing lawsuit

The Associated Press

        ORLANDO, Fla. — The Walt Disney Co. stole ideas for a sports complex from two businessmen and should pay $240 million in damages, a jury ruled Friday.

        Nicholas Stracick, Edward Russell and their company, All Pro Sports Camps Inc., accused Disney of fraud, theft of trade secrets, breaking an implied contract and breaching a confidential relationship. The six-member jury accepted all the claims except fraud.

        “It says to America that small companies can get justice,” Johnnie Cochran Jr., an attorney for the plaintiffs, said afterward.

        The jury decided that Disney's conduct was willful and malicious, which allows the trial judge to double the award at a hearing to be set later.

        Disney general counsel Lou Meisinger said the company would appeal, challenging what he said were prejudicial statements in closing arguments and improper evidence.

        “We're not knocked out,” he said. “The notion that we had to steal this idea is utterly preposterous. This verdict will not stand. This is an aberrational verdict and a one-time thing.”

        Disney executives denied using anybody else's ideas for the Wide World of Sports complex, the spring training home of the Atlanta Braves, at Walt Disney World.

        The judge severely limited the scope of what jurors could consider by adopting jury instructions that said the architecture, site plan and business plan for the sports complex were not copied from All Pro and could not be considered.

        All Pro claimed 88 similarities between its plans and the Disney complex and documented more than 200 telephone calls with Disney executives.

        Mr. Stracick, a retired baseball umpire from Buffalo, N.Y., and Mr. Russell, an architect from Fonthill, Ontario, testified that they pitched their idea for a sports complex to Disney officials in the late 1980s.


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