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Consumer Law

9th Circuit Tosses $8M Award in Decades-Long Steinbeck War

A Ninth Circuit panel threw out a jury award of $8 million in punitive damages to John Steinbeck’s stepdaughter over a copyright dispute involving the author’s famous works.

Waverly Scott Kaffaga, Steinbeck’s stepdaughter, claimed Steinbeck’s late son and widow interfered with negotiations between Dreamworks Studios and Universal Studios to bring adaptations of “Grapes of Wrath” and “East of Eden” to the silver screen.

The interference led to multiple Hollywood producers abandoning film projects involving well-known actors, Kaffaga said, who claimed slander of title and breach of contract in the case.

In 2017, a federal jury awarded Kaffaga $5 million in compensatory damages and $8 million in punitive damages against Gail Knight Steinbeck – the wife of Steinbeck’s deceased son Thomas Steinbeck – and their company, The Palladin Group.

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