Misappropriation claims not covered by policy, judge rules

The Disney Co. has been rebuffed in an attempt to have its insurer cover a $240 million jury verdict in a case involving misappropriation of the idea for a sports complex in Florida.

U.S. District Court Judge William J. Rea, in Los Angeles, issued a decision Monday in favor of Disney’s insurer, American Casualty Co., holding that idea misappropriation claims were not covered by the policy. In so doing, the judge granted American Casualty’s motion for summary judgment and dismissed Disney’s motion.

“We are pleased with the judge’s decision and confident it will be upheld on appeal,” said attorney Marshall Grossman, who represented the insurer, along with Frank Kaplan of Alschuler Grossman Stein & Kahan.

Disney spokeswoman Chris Castro said “this has nothing to do with the underlying case. This is a separate insurance coverage question. We disagree with the decision, and we intend to purse the matter on appeal.”

Monday’s ruling stems from last year’s verdict in a Florida lawsuit, which is now on appeal. That case concerns businessmen Nicholas Stracick and Edward Russell, who formed a company called AllPro. AllPro pitched the idea for a sports complex to Disney, which the latter rejected in 1989. Four years later, Disney announced it would build Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World, which opened in 1997 and serves as the spring training home of the Atlanta Braves.

AllPro subsequently sued Disney for misappropriation of its idea, and a jury returned a $240 million verdict in its favor in August 2000. Later that year, Disney sued American Casualty in Los Angeles, claiming the verdict should be covered by insurance.

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