See You in Court! Suits in the Age of Celebrity and Social Media

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Most cases that grab the headlines these days involve crime, often heinous and violent, perpetrated by ordinary people we would not have known. But sometimes, some cases grab our attention mainly because of the people and the money involved. High-profile celebrities, big companies, contracts and lots of money are some of the things you need to make a civil litigation case hit the news. Here are some cases you would not have heard of if not for the personalities and money involved:

Ralph Lauren vs. Polo

Designer Ralph Lauren had used the name ‘Polo’ for his casual preppy line. But Polo is also a magazine dedicated to the mounted team sport often favored by royalty and high society. In 1997, Lauren called his lawyers to file a civil case against the magazine when it changed its approach and focused more on lifestyle instead of the sport. The designer argued that the publishers of the magazine had no right to use the name as it hijacked the image of his clothing line.

In 1999, Lauren won the civil case. But that decision was overturned in 2001 when the magazine appealed the decision. Since the designer’s line and the magazine had both existed in peace for 22 years, the judge argued that the magazine only needed a disclaimer that it was not connected with Ralph Lauren’s Polo.

Kendall Jenner vs. Cutera

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Skincare company Cutera was growing in 2016, and in a bid to attract more of its target audience, used Kendall Jenner’s face and image for their ‘Laser Genesis’ treatment advertisement. The ad implied that Jenner had used the treatment to clear up her acne. Jenner asked the courts to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) on Cutera, which included banning their use of her image and likeness.

It was revealed in court that Cutera never sought Jenner’s permission for the ads. Jenner demanded $10 million U.S., but the case was soon dismissed after a few months. Most likely, Jenner and the skincare company settled out of court.

Carrie Prejean vs. Miss USA

Carrie Prejean first grabbed the headlines when she gave a controversial answer to media personality Perez Hilton’s question during the Miss USA pageant. She did not win the title and was only the first runner-up, but because of her stance on gay marriage became a speaker for the National Organization of Marriage. Her media appearances soon got some attention, but not all of them were positive. Some of her modeling photos wearing only lingerie were leaked, and the officials of the Miss USA pageant fired her for breach of contract.

Prejean was undeterred and countersued the organization, citing religious discrimination. But the pageant officials were not cowed: they sued her to return the money she had been given for her breast augmentation surgery. A few months later, Prejean agreed to a settlement when there were rumors of a racy video that featured the pageant contestant.

You don’t have to be rich or famous to file a civil suit, but you need to make sure that you have proof of your claims. Remember, the party is only liable if the evidence weighs heavily against them.

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