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Disney Asks For Dismissal In Pooh Royalties Case

The fur continues to fly in the Winnie the Pooh royalties case, as The Walt Disney Company has now asked a Superior Court judge to dismiss the nearly twelve year-old lawsuit. According to an AP report, Disney accused Stephen Slesinger Inc., the company that owns the Winnie the Pooh merchandising rights, of "pervasive misconduct and illegal activities," including stealing documents by rifling through Disney's garbage. Disney also said the company destroyed potential evidence in the case. The plaintiff's attorney, Bert Fields, responded to the attack in a press release, claiming that Disney was throwing up a smokescreen to mask its own document destruction, for which the Mouse House was recently fined. "It's a desperate attempt to take everybody's eye off the ball in this case, which they are losing badly," said Fields. "As for taking documents from Disney's trash, not only is it perfectly legal and done all the time, it happened more than 8 years ago and Disney's known about it for 8 years and made no complaint. Now they pretend they're outraged." In a 2001 ruling, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Ernest Hiroshige imposed sanctions on Disney after finding it destroyed thousands of documents in the case, including a box labeled "Winnie the Pooh legal problems." Disney appealed this sanction, but it was recently upheld in the California Court of Appeals. As a result, when the case goes to trial later in 2003, the jury will be instructed to accept as fact versions of events put forth by the Slesinger family. Disney has asked that an evidentiary hearing be held in April.