Court rejects appeal of Howe legal fees

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

Even in death, Mr. Hockey is still a winner.

The Michigan Supreme Court on Friday issued a ruling from a March 8 application hearing that denied three of Howe’s former business managers any right to appeal legal fees awarded to the late Red Wings legend and his Power Play International company.

The ruling stemmed from a civil case that Del Reddy, Aaron Howard and Del’s father, Michael Reddy, lost to Howe, who died last June at the age of 88.

“... the Court heard oral arguments on the application for leave to appeal the July 26, 2016, judgment of the Court of Appeals,” the ruling, dated Friday, reads.

“On order of the Court, the application is again considered and it is DENIED (emphasis added by court) because we are not persuaded that the questions presented should be reviewed by this Court.”

The attorney fees came from a legal battle dating to 2007 over memorabilia from Howe’s career. The former business managers destroyed items rather than return them to Howe as ordered by Oakland Circuit Judge Leo Bowman.

After that civil trial, a jury awarded Howe and his Power Play International company $3 million in damages from the trio. Additionally, after Power Play filed a post-judgment request, the plaintiffs were awarded $261,000 in attorney fees and interest.

The Reddys and Howard disputed the fees payment and filed with the Michigan Court of Appeals, which declined to hear the matter just one day before Howe’s death

The former managers turned to the Michigan Supreme Court, which denied the leave to appeal, in effect saying the judgment by the Court of Appeals and the Oakland Circuit trial court were both correct and there was no error when attorney fees were awarded.

Drew W. Broaddus, attorney for the Reddys and Howard, said Friday, “We are weighing what options we may have” but declined to comment further. Attorneys for Howe could not be reached for comment.

In earlier court filings, Broaddus had expressed hope for getting a new trial, arguing that the initial damages were unsubstantiated and came from someone who was never qualified as an expert and should have been stopped from testifying about potential damages.

Howe’s chief trial witness in the Oakland Circuit Court case was film producer Howard Baldwin, who produced movies such as “Ray,” “Mystery, Alaska” and “Sahara,” and the TV production “Mr. Hockey: The Gordie Howe Story.”

Baldwin said in his 30-year career he had paid between $500,000 and $1 million for the life story rights of some people. Baldwin paid the National Hockey League $75,000 for just 90 seconds of footage of Howe and said 1,389 tapes that were reportedly destroyed would have been “incredibly valuable” and worth millions of dollars.

Several of the videos reportedly involved Howe discussing sports with other hockey stars and counterparts from golf, Major League Baseball and other sports.

In 2007, Howe had sued the Reddys, Howard and their Immortal Investments company for unpaid royalties from sport memorabilia shows where Howe autographed photos and other materials for fees ranging from $100 to $1,000. That lawsuit ended in 2008 with a $60,000 settlement and an order that all property, including recordings and books, be returned to Howe. It also banned Immortal from profiting off Howe’s name or likeness.

Howe, formerly of Bloomfield Hills, filed a second suit in 2011 for damages when he learned that truckloads of photos, CDS, books and tapes ordered returned to him in 2008 had instead been sent off to a Shred-It facility. It is believed the items included home movies of Howe and his late wife, Colleen.

In June 2013, a six-person jury returned a verdict in favor of Howe. The hockey great, who was in declining health, did not testify but attended all eight days of the trial, sitting in the courtroom flanked by his sons Mark and Marty.

Howe will forever be among the most beloved of Detroit's sports heroes. His NHL career spanned six decades in which he set numerous records as a Detroit Red Wing while helping the team to four Stanley Cup championships.

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