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Crosby v. HLC Properties, Ltd.

California Court of Appeal, Second District, Third Division

January 29, 2014

Bing CROSBY, as Special Administrator, etc., Plaintiff and Respondent,
v.
HLC PROPERTIES, LTD., et al., Defendants and Appellants.

APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, Michael I. Levanas, Judge. Reversed. (Los Angeles County Super. Ct. No. P334700).

Page 598

COUNSEL

Greines, Martin, Stein & Richland, Kent L. Richland, Cynthia E. Tobisman and Feris M. Greenberger, Los Angeles, for Defendants and Appellants.

Sullivan, Workman & Dee, Henry K. Workman and Charles D. Cummings, Los Angeles, for Plaintiff and Respondent.

OPINION

CROSKEY, J.

Page 599

HLC Properties, Limited (HLC) and Kathryn Crosby (Kathryn) appeal the trial court's order granting the Estate of Wilma Wyatt Crosby's

Page 600

(Wilma's Estate) petition [1] and holding that Wilma Crosby (Wilma) possessed a community property interest in her former husband's right of publicity. HLC and Kathryn argue that (1) the Wilma Wyatt Crosby Trust's (Wilma's Trust) prior settlement of Wilma's community property claims bars this petition, and (2) the right of publicity is not community property. We agree with the first point asserted by HLC and Kathryn argument,[2] and therefore, reverse.

[167 Cal.Rptr.3d 357] FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Harris Lillis Crosby, professionally known as Bing Crosby (Bing), was a popular 20th century entertainer. He married Wilma on September 29, 1930, and they had four sons together.[3] Wilma died on November 1, 1952, and her will provided that her community property be distributed in trust to her sons.

Bing remarried, and remained married to his second wife, Kathryn, until he died on October 14, 1977. His will did not provide for Wilma and left the residue of his estate to a marital trust for the benefit of Kathryn. After Bing's death, appellant HLC was formed for the purpose of managing Bing's interests, including his right of publicity.[4]

On September 18, 1996, Wilma's Trust sued HLC and Kathryn for declaratory relief as to the trust's entitlement to " interest, dividends, royalties and other income derived from the community property of [Bing] and [Wilma]...." [5] In 1999, the parties settled for approximately $1.5 million. The settlement agreement provided, in part, that it was " in complete and final settlement of all claims from any source whatsoever of royalties, income or

Page 601

monies due [Wilma's Trust] and all beneficiaries of the Trust, arising from property interests acquired by [Wilma], as a result of her marriage to Bing Crosby, through the date of this Agreement."

The settlement agreement specified each source of income due Wilma's Trust and provided that " there are no other royalties/income due or payable to the Trust ... with respect to Bing Crosby in any medium." However, the agreement also provided that, " [s]hould other income derived from works or performances of Bing Crosby during [the marriage with Wilma] be discovered in the future, .... [t]he ...


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