Insurance Dispute Becomes a Real Circus
By RYAN ABBOTT
April 21, 2014
WASHINGTON (CN) - A federal judge ruled that circus heir Kenneth Feld won't have to produce any more documents to his insurance company, and is entitled to attorney's fees for their latest battle.
Karen Feld sued her brother Kenneth in 2008 for $110 million, claiming he had lackeys beat her and her service dog while their family was sitting shiva at an aunt's memorial service in 2007. She claimed Kenneth had "large, aggressive men" grab her and her dog and toss them out of the service.
Fullbright Jaworski helped Kenneth beat the lawsuit, but Fireman's Fund Insurance Co. covered less than half of the nearly $4.5 million tab that the circus heir racked up in fees.
Feld sued the insurance company in 2012 for the rest, but his case took a hit in discovery when U.S. District Judge John Bates ordered Feld to produce all nonprivileged materials relating to any discussion of hourly rates and the reasonableness of fees and expenses. Feld also had to produce draft invoices, fee agreements and documents reflecting evaluations of coverage under the Fireman's policy.
Fireman's Fund filed its second motion to compel documents withheld by Feld, and the judge granted the motion in part last year, nearly a year after discovery in the case began.
"The parties to this insurance coverage action are just a few weeks away from reaching an unfortunate milestone: the one-year anniversary of an active discovery dispute," Judge Bates wrote in his latest ruling. "After two status conferences, three rounds of briefing, two written opinions, and in camera review of a random sampling of the documents at issue, the time has finally come to put this dispute to rest."
After examining a sample of the documents withheld by Feld, the judge determined on April 16 that the records are indeed protected by attorney client privilege.
"After this review, the matter is settled: Feld's privilege assertions appear to have been made carefully and in good faith," the judge wrote.
Bates also ruled that Feld is entitled to reasonable attorney's fees and costs.
Discovery now will continue.
In the complaint against her brother, Karen Feld claimed that "two, large, aggressive men violently twisted the arms and legs of plaintiff, Karen Feld, pushed her into a corner of the floor of the elevator, ripped her right ear lobe until it bled, and repeatedly violently banged her head against the elevator rail."
Kenneth Feld had countersued his sister, claiming she desecrated their aunt's memorial and trespassed.
According to Karen Feld's complaint, her brother runs Disney on Ice, Disney Life!, Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus, and the Greatest Show on Earth, among many other family-oriented shows. He took over from their father, Irvin, who died in 1984.
She said Kenneth's company, Feld Entertainment, pulls in $1 billion annually.
The siblings' relationship apparently became unsalvageable after freelance journalist Jan Pottker ran an expose on the Felds that quoted Karen Feld discussing her father's affairs with men and other family scandals.
Eight years later, Pottker learned that Kenneth had hired Clair George, the former deputy director of operations for the CIA and head of covert operations, to keep tabs on her as part of an alleged plot to ensure she stopped writing about the Felds and shelved her plans for a book deal.
Pottker said she obtained proof about the scheme through an affidavit from George on file with a court where Kenneth Feld faced an employment dispute.