Jury in kid mag suit says Disney must pay $4.5 mil

In one of the largest jury awards of its kind, the Walt Disney Co.’s magazine publishing division must pay $4.5 million to a former publishing exec for stealing her idea for a children’s magazine.

An L.A. Superior Court jury on Friday found that Linda De Rogatis created the idea for Disney’s “Big Times,” a magazine aimed at kids.

De Rogatis, a 10-year publishing vet and former associate publisher and national sales manager of Video Magazine, approached execs at the conglom’s publishing arm in August, 1993, and worked with execs there until May 1994 on her idea for a magazine dubbed “Kid’s Times.”

Compensations?

“The verdict sends the message that no matter how large and important you may be, if you use another person’s idea, you have to compensate them for it,” Glen Kulik, De Rogatis’ attorney told Daily Variety. “If you don’t, and the (victim) has the fortitude and stamina to battle a company like Disney, which has unlimited resources, then a jury is likely to (hand down) a large award.”

Despite professing an interest in De Rogatis’ idea for a magazine and working on the project with her for nine months, publishing senior veep John Skipper informed her in May 1994 that the company had decided not to publish the magazine.

However, a month later, Disney announced the creation and launch of “Big Times.” De Rogatis filed a lawsuit less than a year later.

Though Skipper testified it was a coincidence and that the magazine was independently created, the jury apparently found him to not be credible and reached a liability verdict quickly based on De Rogatis’ solid paper trail of meetings, conversations and the exchange of ideas with Disney execs.

Typically, in idea-theft cases, plaintiff attorneys must prove similarity and access.

“Linda had an impeccable timeline which allowed us to clearly demonstrate to the jury that the idea did start with her,” said Kulik.

Disney can appeal the verdict, but must post a bond equal to 150% of the award in order to do so. The plaintiff can waive the bond requirement.

Attorneys for Disney declined comment. A corporate spokesman said Disney disagreed with the jury’s verdict and intended to challenge it.

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