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Baldwin to Pay $4,500 in Paparazzo Case

Courts: Jury grants photographer damages for lost pay and a cut nose, far less than the $85,000 he sought for confrontation with the actor.

July 21, 1998|EVELYN LARRUBIA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

In a case of fame, finger-pointing and conflicting stories, a civil jury decided Monday that Alec Baldwin and a celebrity photographer were both to blame for a scuffle outside the actor's Woodland Hills house nearly three years ago.

"What we had, in essence, was one man's word against another," said jury foreman Ronald G. Meyersburg, 49, of Sherman Oaks. "I personally saw it as a case that shouldn't have gone to trial at all."

After hearing different versions of what happened when Baldwin confronted photographer Alan Zanger on the day Baldwin brought his new baby home, the jury found both men were negligent.

Zanger maintained that the actor hit him in the face in an unprovoked attack. Baldwin said it was self-defense.

The jury found that Zanger's injuries and losses were worth $6,000--about what it cost for new glasses, the cut on his nose, lost pay and a week's worth of medical treatment. The money, though, was a fraction of the $85,000 Zanger had been seeking. And because the jurors decided Zanger was 25% responsible for his own injuries, they ordered Baldwin to pay just $4,500.

Zanger said he was happy the jury agreed that he had a right to film the celebrity actor, saying that he would continue to do his job in the same way. Nonetheless, he complained that he should have been "compensated for my damages."

Jurors said they didn't award Baldwin any money because he had said he didn't want any. In addition, Meyersburg said, "We thought it was impossible to put an amount of money on what Mr. Baldwin had suffered. How could you possibly recast that day for him and his child and his family?"

One of the main issues of the trial, jurors said, was Baldwin's claim of invasion of privacy. Only three jurors, including Meyersburg, agreed with that claim.

Still, the verdict was a financial victory for Baldwin, who had stood to lose a lot more money if the jurors had given Zanger what he wanted. Jurors said said they had a hard time believing the photographer.

Baldwin mouthed, "Thank you" to the jury after the verdicts were read. He shook their hands and thanked them individually as they headed for Superior Court Judge Stephen Petersen's chambers.

Baldwin ducked interviews, but his lawyers said he was ecstatic.

"We're thrilled with the verdict all the way around," said Philip Weiss, his lawyer. "This was never about the money."

The case involved a scuffle between the two men Oct. 26, 1995, the day Baldwin brought his wife, Academy Award-winning actress Kim Basinger, and their 3-day-old daughter, Ireland, home from the hospital.

Zanger was parked outside the Baldwin house in his converted pickup truck, crouched in his camper to film the family's arrival.

Baldwin was suspicious and walked up to the truck. He testified that when he saw the light of a video camera, he covered the windows with shaving cream.

Zanger said he got out of the car, saying he was afraid Baldwin would attack him. He said the actor, without provocation, hit him in the face and kicked him in the rear.

Baldwin said that he hit the photographer in self-defense after Zanger raised his video camera in a threatening way. Then, he said, the much smaller photographer charged him and Baldwin shoved and kicked him in defense.

Baldwin was arrested on suspicion of battery, but was acquitted.

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