Current Decisions

Defense Counsel Journal, October 1998 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Current Decisions


Former Major Leaguers Fail to Reach First Base

Seymour (Cy) Block played in 17 games for the Chicago Cubs from 1942 to 1946, plus one game in the 1945 World Series. For his career, he batted .302 and struck out three times. Make that four, courtesy of the California Court of Appeal, First District.

In Block v. Major League Baseball, 76 Cal. Rptr.2d 567 (1998), Block and four other major league baseball players who played before 1947 filed a class action in a California state court against Major League Baseball and three other licensing and distribution agencies alleging violations of their statutory and common law rights of publicity by using the "names, voices, signatures, photographs and/or likenesses" on products such as "books, films, trading cards, collector merchandise, memorabilia and apparel" without their consent or compensation. In 1947, the standard major league player contract was revised so that representations of players' likenesses belong to the employing baseball clubs for their use.

After discovery, the plaintiffs moved for class certification, proposing a class of about 800, consisting of "all major league baseball players who played major league baseball before 1947, or, if they are now deceased, their heirs or beneficiaries." They also narrowed the case to seek damages only for unauthorized uses in California since 1992. The trial court denied certification, stating that in view of the diverse factual and legal issues, "it appears to the court that if certified as a class action, this action would in fact become one of multiple lawsuits separately tried," which would not be "advantageous to the judicial process and to the litigants themselves."

Reviewing on the abuse of discretion standard, the Court of Appeal agreed that the proposed class did not meet California's community of interest requirement--that is, whether common questions of law or fact predominated. First, there might be the evaluation of thousands of individual claims for usage, a task that would be too daunting. Second, the claims would be complicated by the value of the right of publicity of each class member, values that would have a wide range from stars to player would had only a "cup of coffee" in the major leagues. Third, the statute of limitations periods were complicated because some of the proposed class had remained close to organized baseball, thus raising the possibility of affirmative defenses and the need for individual factual inquiries.


Surprise Video Nixes Plaintiff's Judgment

A repetitive stress injuries plaintiff lost a $293,385 award because her attorney suddenly came up with a last-minute videotape. Rotolo v. Digital Equipment Corp., 150 F.3d 223 (2d Cir. 1998).

The plaintiff, Jeanette Rotolo, used a computer manufactured by Digital in her job at the Long Island Jewish Medical Center in New York. Her suit in federal district court alleged that as a result of the keyboard operation she developed what generally are described as cumulative trauma disorders (CTDs) or repetitive stress injuries (RSIs). Without notice and apparently to show defective design, her attorney succeeded in getting District Judge Jack Weinsetin to admit into evidence a videotape the attorney had obtained in an undisclosed manner. The video appeared to have been created by Apple Computer Corp, a competitor of Digital, and showed three Apple consultants, two physicians and one engineer, discussing the possible causal connection between computer keyboard use and RSI, as well as Apple's contemplated efforts to ameliorate the problem.

Judge Weinstein told the jury that they might consider the tape as evidence of "what might have been made available by these defendants [sic] and what was in the field to show what their of mind was or should have been." (For opinion below, see 980 F.Supp. 640.)

This was too much for the Second Circuit to stomach.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Current Decisions


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?