Employee confesses to accepting kickbacks

(Association of Trial Lawyers of America, October 2000)

Rothberg ro. Walt Disney Co., U.S. Dist. Ct., S.D. Cal., No. 95-2407 DDP (ANx), Apr. 20,2000.

Doe, a senior executive at Walt Disney Pictures and Television, allegedly confessed to accepting kickbacks from a Disney vendor. He then signed a release, agreeing to surrender all nonmedical employee benefits in return for Disney's agreement to (1) release the claims it had against him for accepting kickbacks, (2) permit him to remain an employee, (3) keep the matter confidential, and (4) allow Doe to retain his medical benefits. A few months after signing the release, Doe died.

Rothberg, as executor of Doe's estate, sued Disney, alleging breach of contract. Plaintiff claimed defendant coerced Doe into making the confession and then failed to pay him various employment benefits, including stock options, bonuses, and life insurance benefits under an ERISA plan. Plaintiff argued the release was invalid because defendant exercised undue influence over Doe, who was dying of AIDS when he signed the release.

The jury found that there was undue influence on the part of defendant and that Doe did not accept kickbacks. The parties stipulated to damages of $2.7 million.

Plaintiff's expert was Thomas Robert Garrick, psychiatry, Los Angeles, Cal.

Plaintiff's Counsel:
Greg Hafif, Claremont, Cal.
Larry A. Sackey, Claremont, Cal.

Copyright Association of Trial Lawyers of America Oct 2000 Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning Company. All rights Reserved