Annals of celebrity paternity suits

by Walter Olson on February 22, 2010

At the request of lawyers for actor Keanu Reeves, an Ontario court dismissed a C$3 million suit filed by an unemployed homemaker claiming that Reeves was the father of her children. The defense pointed to negative DNA test results, Reeves’ strong denials that he ever met or had dealings with the woman, and divorce documents attributing the children’s paternity to the woman’s ex-husband. “Sala disputed the DNA results in court … suggesting they had been tampered with or that Reeves used hypnosis to affect the results.” [Herald Sun via Faces of Lawsuit Abuse monthly worst-lawsuit poll, PopCrunch]

{ 3 comments }

1 R 02.22.10 at 12:07 pm

Yes, that’s rather crazy. But I think “Woman sues Oprah and President Bush, declaring they “implanted a camera with wire sensors into her with the intent of reincarnation” is weirder.

2 Ted Frank 02.24.10 at 8:31 am

I’m not sure what “Worst” is supposed to mean in these polls. It can’t be lack of merit, because then many lawsuits would tie at zero. And as public-policy implications go, I’m not sure why the Chamber is choosing to highlight lawsuits brought by the plainly mentally ill that are then quickly dismissed. They’re certainly amusing, in the same awkward way that it’s amusing when the self-deluded and self-unaware talentless show up to be insulted by Simon Cowell at American Idol auditions. But they’re an infinitesmal fraction of the problem of lawsuit abuse, and there really isn’t a cure for the Keanu-Reeves-fathered-my-baby type of lawsuit that isn’t worse than the disease: loser-pays rules aren’t going to deter the insane or compensate their victims.

3 Walter Olson 02.24.10 at 8:45 am

I differ. I think the fact that unhinged litigants with no evidentiary basis can inflict substantial response costs is a data point well worth thinking about. Nor am I ready to conclude that all possible fixes tried in any states or countries are worse than the disease. How forgiving should the courts be of sloppily drafted pro se pleadings? Should a bond or fee be required to get into court, as some systems require? We may decide that the net balance of goods requires free rein for the insane, but I wouldn’t say the case has been made, and of course academic analysts of the civil justice system typically gloss over the whole phenomenon as somehow beneath their notice.

Cf. Arnstein v. Porter, where the plaintiff claimed, among other things, that Cole Porter had hired agents to spy on him by living in the same apartment with him. Generations of Civil Procedure profs taught the decision to let the lawsuit go forward as a good thing.

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