Oprah, Madonna, Prince . . . Lindsay? Colorful starlet Lindsay Lohan says she's in the same league as those single-named iconic entertainers -- and that's why she's entitled to $100 million from E-Trade (ETFC) for violating her privacy last month in a TV commercial during the Super Bowl.
But Lindsay -- er, Lohan -- faces a significant burden of proof. "To prevail in a case like this, she would need a consumer survey that is methodologically sound, showing that a significant number of people understand 'Lindsay' to be a reference to her," says Reed Freeman, a partner at Washington-based law firm Morrison Foerster. "That's the method of proof that would be required here."
But celebrity lawyer Daniel Horowitz says the ad's use of the word "milkaholic" is obviously a reference intended to poke fun at Lohan's personal struggles. "It's clearly meant to refer to Lindsay Lohan," Horowitz says. "And the only way E-Trade will get off the hook is if they claim it was some kind of parody." Interestingly, one of Horowitz's clients is a man accused of breaking into Lohan's house, as part of the "Hollywood Bling Ring" case.
Lincoln Bandlow, a Los Angeles-based partner at law firm Lathrop & Gage, says the big hurdle for Lohan is showing that this is a use of her identity, one which violates her privacy. "I don't think it is," Bandlow says. "She's not Sinatra, she's not Cher, and she's not Bono."
But even if she succeeds in doing that, Bandlow says, she then must make an "odd argument," one which could lead to embarrassing disclosures. "She's going to have to say that she's such a lush and an alcoholic that the use of the word 'milkaholic' obviously refers to her," Bandlow says. "The identifying information she will have to cite is someone who is an addict."
'That Milkaholic, Lindsay'
The star of such films as Mean Girls and Herbie: Fully Loaded is suing the giant online brokerage for unlawfully using her "likeness, name, characterization, and personality." Lohan filed the suit in New York State's Nassau County Supreme Court Monday, seeking $50 million of compensatory damages and $50 million of exemplary damages. An E-Trade representative says the company has yet to review the filing and has no comment.
In the commercial in question, part of E-Trade's popular campaign featuring babies who chat about investments and life, an infant refers to "that milkaholic, Lindsay." Lohan's troubles with drugs and alcohol and scuffles with the law have been widely chronicled by the celebrity press.
Lohan's argument hinges on a court's accepting her contention that her worldwide fame -- or notoriety, if you prefer -- has turned her first name into a specific, recognizable reference to the her, much like "Oprah" or "Madonna." "Many celebrities are known by one name only, and E-Trade is using that knowledge to profit," Lohan's lawyer, Stephanie Ovadia, told the New York Post.
'A Subliminal Message'
"They used the name Lindsay," Ovadia continued. "They're using her name as a parody of her life. Why didn't they use the name Susan? This is a subliminal message. Everybody's talking about it and saying it's Lindsay Lohan."
Lohan is seeking an injunction barring any further airings of the commercial. Since news broke that she was filing the lawsuit the YouTube video of the commercial has had 700,000 views, according to YouTube data.
A representative of Grey Group, the ad agency network behind the campaign, dismissed Lohan's claim, telling the Post that E-Trade "just used a popular baby name that happened to be the name of someone on the account team."
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