A Los Angeles Judge has thrown out a Winnie The Pooh lawsuit accusing the Walt Disney company of failing to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in royalties - due to the tampering of evidence.

Judge CHARLES MCCOY JR. has dismissed the case - after finding the accusers systematically stole and altered Disney documents to gain an advantage at trial.

McCoy says, "STEPHEN SLESINGER INC's (SSI) willingness to tamper with and even corrupt the litigation process constitutes a substantial threat to the integrity of the judicial process - a threat requiring decisive, effective and stern sanctions to fully protect the institution of justice, its processes and its litigants from future abuse."

The plaintiffs - PATI SLESINGER and her mother SHIRLEY SLESINGER LASSWELL - claims they were underpaid on some Pooh royalties and excluded out of other lucrative markets. SSI - who initiated the case 13 years ago - hold the North American Pooh merchandising rights that Stephen Slesinger bought from Pooh author A.A. MILNE ('29).

The dismissal with prejudice means the plaintiffs cannot sue again on the same claims.

Disney attorney DANIEL PETROCELLI of O'MELVENY + MYERS comments, "After more than a decade of litigation in the courts, the Winnie the Pooh case is at long last over, and over for good.

"Disney's position was vindicated in its entirety, and the court's decision was the only appropriate thing in these circumstances."

The plaintiffs have vowed to appeal. SSI'S attorney JOHNNIE COCHRAN JR. says, "This has not removed Disney's ongoing obligation to pay royalties to the Slesingers or remedy its unauthorized uses of Pooh.

"What is the garbage documents is that Disney committed fraud, and the judge has thrown out the baby with the bath water."

30/03/2004 17:29