A messy legal battle initiated by Stan Lee’s estate involving accusations of exploitation and elder abuse by the comic book legend’s inner circle has concluded, with an arbitrator siding with Lee’s former attorney that the lawsuit against him was brought too late.
The five-year legal saga was sparked by The Hollywood Reporter’s investigation into Lee’s estate, which chronicled allegations that people introduced into his life by his daughter, J.C., stole millions of dollars from him. This included Jerardo Olivarez, Lee’s ex-business manager who was given power of attorney. Olivarez allegedly insisted that Lee retain Uri Litvak as his attorney for business dealings, but he didn’t disclose a conflict of interest stemming from Litvak representing him in personal matters. A year after Olivarez was sued, Lee also named Litvak in the lawsuit calling the pair “unscrupulous businessmen, sycophants and opportunists” seeking to take advantage of him following the death of his wife.
More from The Hollywood Reporter
A procedural defect in the lawsuit, however, led to Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mark Epstein on Tuesday entering judgment in favor of Litvak after an arbitrator found in February that the statute of limitations to sue him had expired. Lee had a one-year window starting on April 12, 2018, when the complaint against Olivarez was filed, to also name Litvak in the lawsuit. Litvak was sued on April 18, 2018, five days past the maximum allowable time to initiate legal proceedings.
Joan Lee, the trustee for the estate, argued that Litvak’s representation of her father continued beyond the period the lawsuit was filed, which would stop the clock on the statute of limitations.
In response, Litvak cited a letter from Lee sent on Dec. 13, 2017, informing him that he was discharged. Included in the correspondence was a message from Tom Lallas, his replacement, directing Litvak to transfer to him all relevant files.
Arbitrator David Brickner rejected arguments from Lee’s estate that there were unresolved questions relating to whether Litvak continued to represent Lee until 2021.
“The letter from Mr. Lee on December 13, 2017, leaves no doubt in the arbitrator’s mind that Mr. Litvak’s professional services were terminated, both in the minds of Mr. Litvak and Mr. Lee,” Brickner wrote. “No reasonable person could conclude otherwise and Ms. Lee has raised no issue of fact or law suggesting the contrary.”
The ruling closes the book on legal proceedings relating to people alleged to have stolen from Lee in his final years. Olivarez last year settled claims against him. Shortly after, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge George Lomeli declared a mistrial in a criminal case against Lee’s former business manager Keya Morgan. She dismissed the charges after the jury said it was deadlocked 11-1 in favor of acquittal. Morgan was accused of stealing more than $220,000 in proceeds from memorabilia signings from Lee roughly six months before he died. Charges of elder abuse and false imprisonment were dropped prior to the trial.
Best of The Hollywood Reporter