December 15, 2020

Munger, Tolles & Olson and LAFLA Help Stan Lee's House Staff Avoid Defamation Suit

Stan Lee was a world famous comic book writer – rising the ranks of a family-run business to become the creative leader at Marvel Comics for more than two decades. At the time of his death, Mr. Lee had an estimated worth of over $50 million. After the loss of his wife, and nearing the end of his own life, he became the target of outside parasitic people interested in his fame and fortune. During this time period, Mr. Lee began to suffer from dementia. Enter Keya Morgan – described as both personal assistant and business manager to Mr. Lee.

Several accusations have been levied against Mr. Morgan – leading to a criminal charge of elder abuse by the Los Angeles District Attorney’s office. In support of these charges, members of Mr. Lee’s house staff spoke with police detectives, an adult protective services representative and the District Attorney’s office. In an effort to intimidate these witnesses from possibly testifying against him, Mr. Morgan filed a civil suit against them alleging defamation. Mr. Morgan asserted that the staff members falsely accused him of stealing money, elder abuse, forging Mr. Lee’s signature and generally taking advantage of Mr. Lee.

Through a request from Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles (LAFLA), Munger, Tolles and Olson stepped in to help the staff members defend themselves against these defamation claims. Several attorneys, including partner Martin Estrada and associates Nefi Acosta and Ruby Garrett, helped draft, argue and ultimately win an anti-SLAPP motion intended to strike the allegations in the complaint. The court’s order found that the staff members’ statements to the police and other officials as part of an investigation were constitutionally protected speech under California’s anti-SLAPP statutes. The judge also ordered costs and attorneys’ fees for defending a meritless suit.