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Doe a/k/a Twist v. TCI Cablevision

Missouri Supreme Court
110 S.W.3d 363 (Mo. 2003)


Facts

Anthony “Tony” Twist (plaintiff) is a former professional hockey player in the National Hockey League. TCI Cablevision (TCI) (defendant) created, published, and marketed a comic book titled “Spawn” which contained a villainous character sharing Twist’s name. Both the real and fictional Tony Twist were characterized by having a “tough guy” persona, but other than that shared no resemblance. In two interviews, however, the creator of “Spawn” said that the fictional villain was based on the real Tony Twist, the professional hockey player. Twist brought suit against TCI for misappropriation of name and defamation. He sought to recover damages for the fair market value TCI should have paid him to use his name in connection with “Spawn” products, and the damage done to the endorsement value of his name by having it connected with a villainous character. At trial, Twist introduced evidence that the fictional character was based on him, and that TCI gained financial benefits by marketing the “Spawn” comic book to hockey fans, Twist’s fan base. TCI defended on the grounds that it did not base the fictional villain on Twist, that it received no financial benefit, and that its actions were protected by the First Amendment. The trial court dismissed the defamation count, but sustained Twist’s misappropriation of name claim. The jury awarded him $24,500,000 in damages. However, the trial judge granted judgment notwithstanding the verdict for TCI, and ordered a new trial in the event its judgment notwithstanding the verdict was overturned. The Missouri Supreme Court heard the case.

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Holding and Reasoning (Limbaugh, J.)

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