LAWSUIT: TOSSED OUT
Judge Calls $24.5 Million Judgment Against Todd McFarlane a 'Mistake'
November 1, 2000
Sometimes, karma really does work.
Such was the case Tuesday, Oct. 31 (Halloween, appropriately enough) when Missouri Circuit Court Judge Robert H. Dierker announced he was throwing out the $24.5 million judgment against Spawn creator Todd McFarlane, originally awarded to Tony Twist in July. The former hockey player had sued McFarlane for unauthorized use of his name in the comic book series Spawn.
Dierker said judges shirk their duty when they fail to rectify a mistake made by a jury.
Dierker, who presided over the original case, threw out the judgment, stating that the case lacked "credible evidence that McFarlane at any time intended to injure Twist's marketability, to capitalize on the market recognition of the name Tony Twist, or in fact derived any ... benefit whatsoever." He added that when McFarlane first used the name Tony Twist, the plaintiff had no market recognition and "was earning precisely zero income from endorsements."
"As I read this judgment, it was plain to me that the judge found the case lacked the credible evidence expected in a lawsuit of this magnitude," McFarlane said, "Mr. Twist, with his contingency lawyer, spent nothing on this case, while I'm out a half-million dollars and two years of my life defending my name because I knew I was right. Sometimes doing the right thing is the most difficult. I find it amusing that the corporate entities named as defendants in this case took the path of least resistance before the fight was finished."
McFarlane plans to pursue repayment of some costs from Twist.
Throughout the 22-page judgment, Dierker stated that his court had seldom seen less credible evidence, and called the testimony of two of the plaintiff's witnesses "equally unworthy of belief" and "wholly unbelievable."
McFarlane has said since the trial began that this case was not about money, it's about the First Amendment.
"This is way beyond Tony Twist, this is a First Amendment issue. If I lost and the damages were only $10, I'd still fight this thing, because you can't let what happened stand. I'm not trying to cover my ass on this. What I was just found guilty of, there are now thousands of people in the entertainment and publishing industry guilty of the same crime. We all became guilty. You can take my name out and put in CNN or Time Warner or Stephen King ... you're guilty," McFarlane said back in July.
The judge seemed to agree.
Dierker noted that "Spawn is a work of fiction," and "there is no resemblance between plaintiff and the comic book Twist whatsoever." He also said "the court cannot find a single case, certainly no Missouri case, in which injunctive relief has been granted to prevent the use of a name by a writer or publisher in a work of fiction."