$40 billion demanded over use of newsworthy names on T-shirt

by Walter Olson on May 7, 2008

An Arizona antiwar activist has been much criticized for selling a T-shirt with the slogan “Bush Lied, They Died” along with the names of the more than 4,000 U.S. servicemen killed in the war. Parents of a soldier killed in action in Iraq are suing, saying the use of their son’s name has caused them emotional distress; they want class-action status on behalf of all the parents of other soldiers killed in action, amounting to $40 billion. The suit’s Amended Complaint does little to advance the dignity of its cause with assertions like, “Most respectfully, this is a concept that even a mentally-challenged monkey could grasp.” (Howard Wasserman, Prawfsblawg, May 5; Balko, Reason “Hit and Run”, May 6; The Smoking Gun, Apr. 23).

{ 8 comments }

1 KT 05.06.08 at 11:31 pm

I’d offer the plaintiffs’ lawyers $100 as a nuisance settlement offer. How do they intend on finding a medical expert willing to testify that seeing your child’s name on a shirt causes mental distress? Craziness.

2 Todd Rogers 05.07.08 at 7:20 am

Just so long as it’s not about the money.

3 OBQuiet 05.07.08 at 8:47 am

KT,

I wonder how hard it would be to find a medical expert who would say that seeing a message that told you your child was killed because of someones lie WOULD NOT cause mental distress. I cannot imagine not being distressed by that message whether I accepted it as true or not.

But that isn’t really the question anymore than whether it was a lie is.

4 SPO 05.07.08 at 10:59 am

So let me get this straight–if a famous actor or actress were killed in Iraq doing one of her appearances for the troops, her estate would likely be able to prevent the use of her name on said shirt, but some guy who is just serving his country gets killed, his estate cannot. I’m not sure that’s right.

5 Deoxy 05.07.08 at 11:14 am

“But that isn’t really the question anymore than whether it was a lie is.”

No, it’s not the question at all – each side has decided the answer (opposite each other, of course) and refuses to listen to the other any more.

Not too helpful, really. I would say that the majority of both sides are refusing to look at the facts anymore (if they ever did at all).

6 Bill Poser 05.07.08 at 11:37 am

Whether or not the parents like it, this seems to me to be about as clear a case of political speech protected by the First Amendment as there could possibly be. Critics of the war are entitled to name the casualties as part of their criticism. Even if the critics don’t name individual casualties, parents who hear the claim that US soldiers died because the administration lied will surely think of their own children. This suit shouldn’t survive summary judgment.

7 Robin 05.07.08 at 1:27 pm

Clearly this suit has been filed instead of punching the guy in the nose. Personally, I wish there were more nose socks and fewer lawsuits. I’m pretty sure the world would be a better place.

8 John Burgess 05.07.08 at 2:55 pm

How about the parents’ creating T-shirts naming the producers of the objectionable one? They could do something like:

X Abuses the War Dead

A photo pulled from a newspaper of X could probably also be used under fair-use or parody exceptions to copyright law.

Comments on this entry are closed.