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New Attorneys Pick Up Fight for Pooh

The family suing Walt Disney for royalties replaces the lawyers who withdrew from the case.

August 02, 2003|Meg James | Times Staff Writer

The family suing Walt Disney Co. for hundreds of millions of dollars in Winnie the Pooh royalties hired new attorneys Friday to replace Bertram Fields and his partners, who withdrew from the case last month for undisclosed reasons.

Elwood Lui and Rick McNight, partners in the law firm Jones Day, will represent Patricia Slesinger in the long-running feud. Lui is a former California appeals court judge.

Slesinger inherited the Pooh merchandising rights from her father, a New York literary agent, who had obtained the rights in 1930 from "Winnie-the-Pooh" author A.A. Milne.

Slesinger and her mother, Shirley Slesinger Lasswell, sued Disney 12 years ago, alleging breach of contract. They claim the Burbank-based company has cheated them out of money due for product uses of the befuddled bear, who has become one of Disney's most beloved characters.

Disney acquired the Pooh rights from the Slesingers and Milne's heirs in 1961.

A Los Angeles Superior Court judge last month allowed Fields and Bonnie Eskenazi, of Greenberg, Glusker, Fields, Claman, Machtinger & Kinsella, to leave the case. The judge also sealed their motion to withdraw, saying Slesinger and Lasswell could be "prejudiced by any disclosure of the contents of the papers."

In taking the case, Jones Day becomes at least the sixth firm to handle the dispute on behalf of the Slesingers. Lui said neither the changes in representation nor publicity surrounding the case would be an obstacle.

"We've been in these situations before," said Lui, who is based in San Francisco. "It doesn't bother us."

Disney's lead counsel, Daniel Petrocelli, declined to comment.

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