As you might have heard Frank Sivero, who is most remembered for his iconic role as a frozen corpse in Goodfellas, is suing the creators of the Simpsons. Sivero’s cause of action is based off of the supposed theft of his one-dimensional stereotype in the 1990 Scorsese classic, which Matt Groening et al turned it into a one-dimensional cartoon character that has since had a speaking role in the Simpsons for a grand total of 15 episodes. In other words it’s another banner day for those of use with a vowel at the end of our last name.
This suit is an obvious joke for a variety of different reasons. So let’s IRAC them all so the future lawyers of America won’t be suckered into this sort of suit (unless the client is paying hourly).
According to voice actor Dan Castellaneta the character in question, Louie, was modeled off of Joe Pesci in Goodfellas (like every Mafia character after 1990 not named “Michael” or “Tony”). Sivero’s evidence for this IP theft is apparently the proximity of his home to the Simpsons writers in 1989 when the cartoon and Goodfellas were both in development. Additionally there are some physical similarities between Louie and Frankie Carbone – in that they both have mullets. So a quarter of a billion dollar lawsuit hangs on clichéd character development, people living in Sherman Oaks at the same time, and a shared awful hairstyle from the early 90s.
Additionally there are the damages, which are possibly the dumbest part of this whole suit (outside of the fact that the whole thing will be tossed out on the parody exception). According to Deadline, Sivero and his lawyers came up with the $250 million figure as follows:
They [Sivero] want $50 million in damages for loss of his likeness, another $50 million in actual loss for “improper appropriation of Plaintiff’s confidential idea”, $50 million more in exemplary damages and $100 million for “improper interference. ”Claiming a loss of “prospective economic advantage” and industry “type-casting”.
This “unjust enrichment” is derived from a conversation between Sivero and Simpson’s writer/producer James L. Brooks concerning a movie for the “Louie” character (pause for laughing), and Sivero’s lawyer not understanding how tort damages work. In other words, this suit is a godawful mess that seems to exist solely to get Sivero his first movie since 2008.
So great job and hats off to Sivero’s lawyers over at Hess, Hess, and Herrera. Maybe if Fox settles out of court you can get a website that doesn’t look like a child from 1996 put it together. Hopefully (for your sake) this case does better than Sivera’s last piece of litigation, where he sued over a sandwich.