Saturday, December 3, 2022 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Circus Heir Suffers Blow in Tussle Over Legal Fees

WASHINGTON (CN) - Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey heir Kenneth Feld must produce documents that could let his insurer skirt paying for a long family legal battle.

Karen Feld sued her brother Kenneth in 2008 for $110 million, claiming that he had his lackeys beat up her and her service dog while their family was sitting Shiva at an aunt's memorial service in 2007. She claimed Kenneth had "large, aggressive men" grab her and her dog, tossing them out of the service.

The law firm Fullbright Jaworski helped Kenneth beat the lawsuit, but Fireman's Fund Insurance Co. covered just under half of the nearly $4.5 million tab that the circus heir racked up in fees.

Feld sued Fireman's Fund last year for the rest, but his case took a hit in discovery last week when U.S. District Judge John Bates ordered Feld to produce all nonprivileged materials relating to any discussion of hourly rates and the reasonableness of fees and expenses. Feld must also produce draft invoices, fee agreements and documents reflecting evaluations of coverage under the Fireman's policy.

"In short, Feld has brought a lawsuit that, at its core, is premised on the absence of any agreement as to rates on his part or Fulbright's," Bates wrote. "He may not affirmatively disclaim agreement and yet use the privilege to shield materials that might show otherwise. Hence, the court concludes that Feld has waived the attorney-client privilege with respect to communications that relate to Feld's or Fulbright's understanding of and actions regarding FFIC's position on hourly rates, or that otherwise bear on the parties' agreement or lack thereof."

In her complaint against Feld, Karen Feld claimed, "The two, large, aggressive men violently twisted the arms and legs of plaintiff, Karen Feld, pushed her in to a corner on the floor of the elevator, ripped her right ear lobe until it bled, and repeatedly violently banged her head against the elevator rail."

Feld countersued his sister, claiming she desecrated their aunt's memorial and committed trespassing.

According to Karen Feld's complaint, her brother runs Disney on Ice, Disney Live!, Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus, and the Greatest Show on Earth among many other family-oriented shows, taking over for their father, Irvin, who died in 1984. She said Kenneth's company, Feld Entertainment, pulls in $1 billion annually.

The siblings' relationship reportedly became unsalvageable after freelance journalist Jan Pottker ran an expose on the Felds that quoted Karen Feld discussing her father's affairs with men and other family scandals.

Eight years later, Pottker learned that Kenneth had hired Clair George, the former deputy director of operations for the CIA and head of covert operations, to keep tabs on her as part of a plot to ensure she stopped writing about the Felds and shelved her plans for a book deal.

Pottker says she obtained proof about the scheme through an affidavit from Clair on file with a court where Kenneth Feld faced an employment dispute.

Read the Top 8

Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.