Lindsay Lohan’s Legal Lesson

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Last week Lindsay Lohan provided a valuable lesson for the professional liability community.  It’s true.  The lesson arises from Lohan’s recently dismissed lawsuit against rapper Pitbull.  Adding insult to injury, the court tossed the suit and sanctioned Lohan’s lawyer for improperly submitting a brief that contained plagiarized, “cut-and-paste” content.  

In the underlying lawsuit, Lohan alleged that Pitbull violated her right of publicity and caused emotional distress via the following lyric: “So, I’m tiptoe-in’, to keep flowin’, I got it locked up, like Lindsay Lohan.”  Lohan claimed that the lyric is “destined to do irreparable harm.”  Lohan sued under the New York civil rights laws.  Senior U.S. District Judge Denis Hurley of Brooklyn, N.Y held in the opinion that the lyrics constituted protected speech and that the use of a name without consent is not barred in New York when utilized as part of a First Amendment work of art.

The court also sanctioned Lohan’s attorney, Stephanie Ovadia, $1,500 for submitting plagiarized sources in her opposition to Pitbull’s motion to dismiss. Reportedly, Pitbull’s lawyers alleged that Lohan’s opposition brief “was plagiarized from website articles and materials having nothing to do with the claims at issue.” According to the court, the “submission of a plagiarized opposition constituted an affront to the court.”

This decision raises an interesting question because attorneys often utilize the “cut and paste” function.  Many law firms maintain brief indices or folders of oft-cited legal principles, frequently filed motions, and the like to avoid “reinventing the wheel.”  While this decision should  not be read to dissuade all “copy and paste” submissions, the lesson is to avoid sloppiness.  Attorneys must ensure that all submissions to the court are relevant to the issue presented and narrowly tailored to the specific facts of the case. 

The professional liability community thanks you, Ms. Lohan and Mr. Pitbull, for providing an interesting and valuable risk management lesson.