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Most of actor’s employment lawsuit against company dismissed

Actor and political pundit Ben Stein has lost the majority of his breach of contract lawsuit against a Japanese company after the company backed out of a deal to have Stein star in commercials for computer printers. Stein had filed the litigation against the company, Kyocera Mita, claiming that the company violated his First Amendment rights and broke his employment contract after finding out his views on climate change.

Stein is best known as an actor and game-show host, but prior to that he was an economist and speechwriter in the Nixon administration. In recent years, he has given support to the theory that changes in the environment are natural, not caused by pollution.

It appears that Kyocera was not aware of that when its ad agency agreed to hire Stein to shoot a series of television commercials. But then a representative of the ad agency called Stein’s agent and said the company was concerned that his beliefs about the environment might hurt Kyocera’s image. The company later hired another actor to portray a Stein-like character.

Stein brought a lawsuit against Kyocera, alleging breach of contract, infliction of emotional distress and seven other charges. But recently, the judge presiding over the case dismissed all but one of the counts. She said that, while Stein has the right to express political speech under the First Amendment, Kyocera also has the “constitutional right not to be associated with Plaintiff” due to his political views, a principle called freedom of expressive association.

The only remaining part of Stein’s lawsuit is his allegation of misappropriation of publicity rights in connection with the ads Kyocera produced.

Source: Hollywood Reporter, “Ben Stein Loses Bulk of Lawsuit Claiming Global Warming Beliefs Cost Him Acting Job,” Eriq Gardner, May 8, 2012

John P. Aldrich
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