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Stone v. Williams

United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
873 F.2d 620 (1989)


Facts

Cathy Stone (plaintiff) was the daughter of Bobbie Jett. Jett and Hank Williams Sr., a country singer, executed an agreement stating that Williams Sr. might be Stone’s father. However, Williams Sr. specifically did not admit paternity. The agreement turned Stone over to the care of Williams Sr.’s mother, Lillian. After Lillian’s death, when Stone was two years old, Stone was briefly made a ward of the state and then fostered by Mr. and Mrs. Deupree in 1956. The Deuprees adopted Stone in 1959. In 1967, Williams Sr.’s son, Hank Williams Jr. (defendant), assigned copyright interests in his father’s music. In the resulting litigation, the state trial court assigned a guardian ad litem (GAL) to search for any unknown potential heirs to Williams Sr. and to represent their interests. The GAL discovered Stone and represented her interests zealously, but the trial court found that Williams Jr. was the sole heir of his father and that Stone had no rights to the proceeds from Williams Sr.’s songs. The Deuprees did not tell Stone about these proceedings until 1973, when she turned 21 years old. The Deuprees then discouraged Stone from finding out more, until Mr. Deupree told Stone in 1980 that he had been wrong to withhold information from her and that she should pursue inquiries into her parentage if she wished. Following this conversation, Stone made inquiries and met with the GAL, but did not bring any proceedings on behalf of her rights until 1985. At that time, Stone sued Williams Jr. and various music companies and related individuals (defendants) in federal district court. Stone and Williams Jr. also sued each other in state trial court, which resulted in a holding that Stone was the child of Williams Sr., but not his heir by law. Meanwhile, the defendants had entered into numerous transactions involving Williams Sr.’s copyrights. The district court granted the defendants’ motion for summary judgment on the basis of laches.

Rule of Law

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Holding and Reasoning (Cardamone, J.)

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