Fields exits Pooh case; Wheeler in

Legal eagle to take reins, though most likely transitory

Bert Fields will formally withdraw from the long-running Winnie the Pooh case today. The plaintiffs, the Slesinger family, will be represented by Los Angeles attorney David Wheeler in their battle with Disney over merchandising royalties.

Wheeler has handled the Mattel portion of the case for several months. Mattel was subpoenaed by the Slesingers because it is one of the main licensees of Pooh products.

Wheeler was brought in after Mattel made a motion to disqualify Fields for conflict of interest because he had previously represented the toy manufacturer.

Slesinger family spokesman Lonnie Soury said that while Wheeler is the new attorney of record, he will probably be a transitional lead counsel.

Soury confirmed that the family has spoken to litigators such as Browne Greene and Brian Lysaght about handling the case.

An arrangement under which Greene, Lysaght and attorney Gregory Dovel would work on the case together also has been discussed, but nothing has been agreed upon.

Fields announced last month that he would be withdrawing from the case, but he did not give a reason. He is one of a succession of lawyers who have worked on the case since it was filed in L.A. Superior Court in 1991.

The suit claims that Disney has cheated the Slesingers, who have licensed Pooh to Disney since the 1960s, out of royalties.

The lovable little bear is Disney’s most popular character, and potential damage estimates have run as high as $1 billion.

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