Sounds Like a Villain to Me

May 23, 2009 at 1:30 pm 4 comments

An item from Associated Press: a husband-and-wife real estate team is suing a writer-producer on the TV show “CSI” for naming “two shady characters” after them, supposedly in revenge for a real-life home transaction that went sour. The couple is seeking $6 million in damages for defamation, invasion of privacy, and loss of income.

Plaintiffs Melinda and Scott Tamkin cite an episode of CSI featuring a character named “Melinda,” a real estate agent who dies under questionable circumstances, and a second character “Scott,” “Melinda’s” booze-swilling, porn-gazing, mortgage-brokering husband, who is named as prime suspect. In their complaint, the Tamkins say that the original surname of the characters was Tamkin (changed to Tucker in the shooting script) and that actors who physically resembled them were auditioned for the roles.

In speculating on his clients’ loss of income, the Tamkins’ attorney Anthony Glassman says, “In this business, you never know why the phone doesn’t ring,” as in MAYBE that CSI episode has something to do with it. Glassman claims that certain online postings about the episode have used the original characters’ surname “Tamkin,” which he contends could have created negative impressions during Web searches for the actual Tamkins.

I was a real estate agent for five years so I’m also qualified to speculate the reasons behind the Tamkins’ dormant phone. Perhaps it’s because of the shell-shocked housing market. Perhaps the Tamkins are spending more time suing people than prospecting. Or maybe, that CSI episode really did hurt Melinda and Scott’s reputation…”Did you know Melinda was murdered? Scott was the prime suspect. I saw the whole thing on CSI. Well, I’m not listing my house with them!”

But we’re missing the true tort here. The writer-producer-defendant from CSI is Sarah Goldfinger. No word yet if Ms. Goldfinger is suing the estate of Ian Fleming for naming James Bond’s most nefarious adversary after her.


Entry filed under: Creativity, Media, Public Relations. Tags: , , , , .

All Rise in the Court of Public Opinion Stop Shutting Up

4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Jonathan Vos Post  |  May 23, 2009 at 2:26 pm

    CSI can name a serial killer after me anytime. But not a rapist. Got to draw a line someplace.

  • 2. James Strock  |  May 23, 2009 at 7:19 pm

    Great law school exam question this case would be! Tortious interference with business? Sounds pretty far-fetched–and the damages by the plantiffs’ lawyer admission are pretty sketchy–but the websites referring to the actual names and the prior relationship of the parties make this case intriguing. Such web postings–publications in their own right?– may be more significant than the television program itself… then again, in California, who knows?

    • 3. jasonkarpf  |  May 23, 2009 at 7:53 pm

      I’m not a lawyer, but I think the strongest part of the case would be the Web mentions. But you would have to prove damages. In the meantime, I think the agents risk considerable PR damage for filing what could be considered a frivolous suit that is now getting national attention.

  • 4. Jonathan Vos Post  |  May 23, 2009 at 8:46 pm

    IANAL (I Am Not A Lawyer) and TINLA (This Is Not Legal Advice). But I believe that, in California, to win a Defamation suit (Slander, Libel, or Slander Per Se) you need to prove THREE things:
    (1) Actual financial damages (not hurt feelings);
    (2) From statements taken as fact (not opinion);
    (3) Which statements are false or made with reckless disregard for the truth.

    Repeating my disclaimers, I point out that I was a Plaintiff in a number of Defamation suits over a 20 year period, with mixed results.

    So far as I know, the question of whether a statement on the Web is written publication (as needed for Libel), can be written republication of oral (as in Slander), and whether or not Malice needs to be proved (not needed if Slander Per Se, as in accusation that the party has “a loathesome disease) are mixed in precedents.


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