Trusts & Estates

8th Circuit Revives Suit Over Elvis Memorabilia


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A federal appeals court has ruled that the heirs to a longtime friend of Elvis Presley can proceed with a lawsuit over a clump of the King’s hair and other memorabilia they claim were stolen and sold at auction.

At stake is $250,000 in proceeds from the sale of a trove of collectors’ items that allegedly belonged to Elvis’ personal friend and fan club president, Sterling Gary Pepper Jr., Thomson Reuters reports.

Pepper’s heirs, John Tate and Norma Deeble, filed suit on behalf of their late cousin in 2009 against Pepper’s former caretaker, Nancy Pease Whitehead, accusing her of stealing his extensive collection of Elvis memorabilia when Pepper was transferred into a home for the disabled.

An Iowa district court had refused to block the auction of Elvis memorabilia, which included a lock of his hair, a red ultrasuede shirt and two dried white roses from his funeral, saying that the statute of limitations on Pepper’s relatives’ claims had expired.

But Peppers’ heirs appealed that ruling to the St. Louis-based 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, saying the family had no knowledge that the collection even existed until they heard about the scheduled auction, and couldn’t have filed suit any earlier.

That argument was enough to convince a three-judge panel of the 8th Circuit to revive the suit, which on Tuesday sent the case back to the lower court for trial (PDF).

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