Oksana Baiul's Strange Suit Ends in Sanctions
MANHATTAN (CN) - Olympic gold medalist Oksana Baiul owes sanctions for pursuing "inexcusably meritless" litigation involving "wild claims" against NBC Universal, a federal judge ruled Tuesday.
The Ukrainian self-described "superstar" alleged that NBC Universal promoted her appearance without her approval in two events three years ago, and then said the promoter of that event defamed her as "flaky" when she did not show up.
In an April order granting the network summary judgment, U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest noted that Baiul had agreed through her agent to skate for several stops of a series of two-hour figure skating shows, including a January 2012 "Moments of Love" show starring Kenny G.
Baiul then pulled out of the series, telling her agent in an error-filled email that she was "werry sorry I am werry suck I can't do this shows I am suck with my colitias," Forrest wrote.
A press release for the "Moments of Love" show accidentally still went out with Baiul's name on it, which was posted on NBC's Media Village website two days before its broadcast aired.
This posting did not reach a wide audience and was only visible to web users who could prove their press credentials.
Only one other media outlet reported on that press release, which NBC removed from its website immediately upon learning about the error.
Granting attorneys' fees to the media defendants Tuesday, Forrest wrote that Baiul's delayed lawsuit "attempted to turn a genuine mistake in the press release - which, based on its audience and timing, had no conceivable impact on the income generated by the Moments of Love Show by NBC - into an actionable claim."
There was "no meaningful dispute that Baiul's conduct in this action evinces ulterior motives and improper purposes," her 10-page opinion states.
Baiul used the NBC litigation to serve "more than 28 subpoenas" on third parties "with no discernible connection" to the case, but whom she sued in other lawsuits on both coasts, according to the opinion.
Attorneys for both sides must submit written arguments about how much Baiul should pay and meet again in court on Aug. 1, the ruling states.
Baiul's lawyer Raymond Markovich declined to comment other than to refer to his filings and say that his client will appeal the decision.
In his brief opposing attorneys' fees, Markovich wrote: "If NBC did not want to have to defend a claim by plaintiff, they and the other defendants should not have used plaintiff's likeness, persona, picture, image and/or name no less than twenty-six (26) proven times without her consent."
NBC's lawyers did not respond to a request for comment.
Among her other lawsuits, Baiul sued the talent agency William Morris nearly a year ago in Manhattan. She filed similar claims against the same entity in Los Angeles in 2012 .
Forrest dismissed the 2013 William Morris case as well, describing it as "frivolous, and frankly, bizarre."