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The Scales of Justice Often Weigh Some Very Odd Things

September 20, 1993|PENELOPE McMILLAN

In this case, there is a legitimate legal issue involved: whether or not the companies had breached their contract with Peyton to market his novelties.

"If the facts were different, nobody would quarrel about it being in court," Christenson said. "If a star allowed somebody to take a plaster cast of her face to sell likenesses, nobody would quarrel with that."

Peyton's suit sought compensation, perhaps more than $1 million in unpaid royalties, according to his lawyer, Passman. But attorneys for defendants California Publishers Liquidating Corp. and Health Devices claimed that the Peyton products the companies marketed were a financial bust. The actor had been paid $200,000 for his services, they said, and deserved nothing more.

As the trial proceeded, Peyton testified how he had signed a contract allowing his likeness to be reproduced. He even described a "bidding war" over his services.

When Passman showed him a series of rubber replicas displayed in a catalogue, Peyton leaned forward to study the pictures. Younger glanced down from the bench. "They look like cordless telephones," the judge quipped.

Younger called the Plaster Caster case "the PG version of this trial." When Passman offered to keep all the Stryker exhibits in their boxes so as not to offend the court's "sensibilities," Younger snapped. "That misses the point.

"I didn't see any exhibits that I haven't seen before," he added.

Ultimately, Younger chose to grant the companies' request to dismiss Peyton's allegations, if they agreed to pay him $25,000. The judge called his ruling "horseback jurisprudence" and noted that Peyton had a right to appeal.

He asked the attorneys to take their exhibits with them when they left his courtroom.

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