Tuesday, October 13, 2009
In an action brought by the personal representative (and later widow) of a deceased law partner, the South Carolina Supreme Court held that the claims relating to the continuing use of the attorney's name were properly dismissed. The court described the basis of the civil complaint:
Julian Gignilliat (Gignilliat) was a founding partner in 1968 of what became the GSB law firm. The firm did not have a written partnership agreement. Gignilliat was diagnosed with a serious illness in 2001. Gignilliat died on June 22, 2002. It is undisputed that Gignilliat, cognizant of his terminal illness, requested that GSB continue to use his name after his death and that GSB not be sued
The Personal Representative (PR) of the Estate of Julian Gignilliat filed an action against GSB and six partners in the firm at Mrs. Gignilliat’s request. The PR alleged GSB continued to use and profit from the Gignilliat name without the consent of Gignilliat’s estate and without making compensation for its use.
A Consent Order was filed wherein the PR of the estate assigned Mrs. Gignilliat the sole right to any of the estate’s claims arising out of the complaint. Subsequently, Mrs. Gignilliat filed an amended complaint naming herself as the plaintiff in which she sought a declaratory judgment regarding the defendants’ right to continue using the Gignilliat name without consent, and she asserted claims for (1) infringement on the right of publicity, (2) conversion, (3) unjust enrichment, and (4) quantum meruit. She sought damages and an injunction preventing further use of the Gignilliat name without compensation.
The court concluded that any sentimental value attached to the deceased attorney's name did not form a basis for quantum meruit recovery. (Mike Frisch)