The California Court of Appeals yesterday rejected Disney’s appeal of sanctions for destroying documents in the decade-long legal battle over Winnie-the-Pooh royalties. The court found that Disney misused the pretrial discovery process by destroying evidence it knew or should have known was sought by Stephen Slesinger Inc.
Bert Fields, lawyer for the Slesinger family, indicates that the ruling is very important to his client’s case, saying “The jury will be told that certain conversations, which we contend go right to the heart of the case were true. These include specific promises made by Disney executives to pay the family royalties, which Disney is now denying ever took place.”
Fields contends that Disney destroyed thousands of documents, including a file marked “Winnie the Pooh Legal Problems.”
The plaintiff in the case is Shirley Slesinger Lasswell, the 79-year-old widow of licensing pioneer Stephen Slesinger, who teamed up with Pooh author A. A. Milne and illustrator E.H. Shepherd in the 1930s to license the property.