Court Case Shows DNA Should Be Treated With Care

Marvel has a well-known cadre of superhero characters, including Spider-Man, Captain America, and the Hulk, whose basic story is facing and resolving outsized precarious situations. Now, Marvel’s CEO finds himself mired in litigation worthy of its movies.

Marvel’s CEO, Isaac “Ike” Perlmutter, has been in the midst of a legal battle with a neighbor, Harold Peerenboom, which stemmed from a dispute over who would run their Palm Beach gated community’s tennis program. Perlmutter’s person supported to run the program, with Perlmutter’s support, sued Peerenboom for defamation, and the insurance giant, Chubb, assigned Peerenboom an attorney. While this was occurring, Peerenboom was being subjected to a vicious hate-mail campaign, with more than a thousand letters being sent to friends and others.  The mailings contained unfounded allegations of Peerenboom sexually assaulting a child and committing a double-murder.

If that is not enough, reminiscent of an action movie, in a motion for punitive damages filed two weeks ago, Perlmutter alleged that an in-house attorney at Chubb took the deposition of Perlmutter, intending to secretly take DNA from water bottles and papers that Perlmutter and his wife had touched.  Allegedly, the goal of taking the Perlmutters’ DNA was to manipulate the DNA to link them to the hate mail and provide the DNA sample to law enforcement.  Florida law prohibits performing DNA analysis without the informed consent of the person being tested.

The motion for punitive damages alleges that Peerenboom and Chubb’s in-house attorney arranged for a technician from a private forensic firm to attend the deposition and secretly and unlawfully obtain the Perlmutters’ DNA. At the attorney’s deposition, he invoked his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination when questioned about his role in the DNA theft. It will be interesting to see what the court decides.

A copy of Perlmutter’s motion for punitive damages can be viewed or downloaded here: MOTION FOR PUNITIVE DAMAGES

At times seemingly mundane legal disputes between neighbors turn very ugly very quickly, especially when they involve wealthy litigants accustomed to enjoying positions of power.  A possible lesson from the case is that leaving items you discard in the deposition area because “it will be cleaned up” can result in your client’s DNA being used by an adversary in a case. In the same way, you would never leave sensitive documents strewn about after a deposition; you should be similarly vigilant to clean or throw away anything from which DNA could be swabbed.  You don’t want your client to end up in a situation straight out of a Marvel movie script.

Request for Information

    Share This

    Share this post with your friends!