On March 31, New York U.S. District Judge Paul Crotty dismissed a suit by shareholders in Stan Lee Media, Inc. against Lee and Marvel Entertainment, Inc. The nearly decade-old suit stemmed from claims of harm to shareholders when the rights to comic heroes such as Spider Man, the Incredible Hulk and the Fantastic Four were transferred by Lee to Marvel in 1998. Marvel was purchased by the Disney Corporation in December of 2009, and Stan Lee filed for bankruptcy in 2001. The suit sought $750 million dollars in damages.
According to the report by Reuters, the judge said it was time to put an end to the legal actions that had swung through courts in New York, California and Colorado, and had resulted in one securities class-action settlement. Unlike other suits regarding ownership of copyrights by co-creator Jack Kirby over the same and other Marvel heroes blogged about here, this shareholder suit was brought by two named plaintiffs, Jose Abadin and Christopher Belland, who alleged harm to the company and to their shares, when the rights were transferred by Lee.
The judge found the suit to be without merit for two reasons. First, he concluded that the shareholders lacked standing to sue because they did not acquire their Stan Lee Media shares until 1999, more than a year after the alleged "illegal" conduct. Second, Judge Crotty held that the shareholders waited too long to act by not filing their latest lawsuit until January 2009, saying they "cannot wait a decade to enforce their rights." Plaintiffs' attorneys did not return calls from Reuters seeking comment.
The suits by the estate of Jack Kirby against Marvel Entertainment and Disney are still proceeding.