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Sellers v. American Broadcasting Co.

United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit
668 F.2d 1207 (1982)


Facts

In June 1978, Larry Sellers (plaintiff) met with Geraldo Rivera, an investigative reporter occasionally employed by the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) (defendant), to discuss Sellers’s theories on the death of Elvis Presley. Before the meeting, Sellers and Rivera reached an agreement that guaranteed Sellers copyright rights in the story and public credit for revealing the truth behind Elvis’s death. Sellers contended that Elvis died after Elvis’s bodyguard and physician replaced Elvis’s cortisone treatment with a placebo, causing a fatal collapse in Elvis’s cardiovascular system. Sellers’s story could not be verified, and Rivera declined to use the story. Several months later, Rivera was commissioned to do a story on Elvis’s death for ABC. The investigation revealed that Elvis’s death was not caused in the specific manner suggested by Sellers and was the result of a misuse of prescription drugs. After the broadcast, Sellers brought a suit against ABC for misappropriation of his idea. The district court held that ABC had not used the story provided by Sellers, and summary judgment was granted in favor of ABC. Sellers appealed, arguing that Sellers had also told Rivera that Elvis’s death might have been the result of a misuse of prescription drugs, a theory that many newspapers had printed before Sellers ever met with Rivera.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Johnson, J.)

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  • A "yes" or "no" answer to the question framed in the issue section;
  • A summary of the majority or plurality opinion, using the CREAC method; and
  • The procedural disposition (e.g. reversed and remanded, affirmed, etc.).

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