Trials & Litigation

Marvel CEO seeks punitive damages for alleged theft of his DNA during a deposition

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Marvel CEO Isaac “Ike” Perlmutter. AP Photo/Susan Walsh.

Marvel Entertainment CEO Ike Perlmutter is seeking punitive damages against Chubb insurance for allegedly facilitating a DNA theft during a deposition.

Perlmutter alleges an in-house lawyer for a Chubb subsidiary subpoenaed Perlmutter and his wife, Laura, to a deposition with the aim of secretly collecting their DNA. The genetic material was intended to help bolster a claim that the Perlmutters were behind a hate mail campaign targeting their Florida neighbor, Toronto businessman Harold Peerenboom.

At the deposition, the Perlmutters were asked to inspect exhibits and were offered bottles of water. DNA from those items was collected and sent for testing, according to Perlmutter’s motion to assert punitive damages (here and here). Law & Crime has coverage.

A Florida judge allowed the Perlmutters to pursue the stolen DNA claim in January 2017, according to past coverage by the Hollywood Reporter.

The Perlmutters and Peerenboom, the founder of executive search firm Mandrake Management, both live in a swanky oceanfront complex in Palm Beach known as Sloan’s Curve. Earlier reporting by the Toronto Sun and the Hollywood Reporter provided details of the dispute between neighbors.

The dispute began when Peerenboom proposed competitive bidding on a contract to operate tennis facilities at Sloan’s Curve. The tennis pro who oversaw the facilities claimed Peerenboom defamed her in mailings and sued.

The Chubb subsidiary Federal Insurance Co. defended Peerenboom on the defamation claim.

Perlmutter didn’t want the tennis pro who oversaw the facilities to be replaced, and Peerenboom accused him of funding the tennis pro’s lawsuit.

An anonymous hate mail campaign followed, Peerenboom alleged. The letters sent to Peerenboom’s friends and associates accused him of “loathsome crimes,” including murder and sexual assault of a minor, he said in court documents. Peerenboom thought the Perlmutters were to blame and filed a defamation suit against them. Perlmutter countersued for the alleged DNA theft.

Peerenboom has said in-house lawyer William Douberley came up with the idea to collect the DNA from the paper and water bottles. Douberley refused to comment when contacted by the Hollywood Reporter, and a retired Florida lawyer by that name did not immediately respond to a request for comment by the ABA Journal.

Marc Kasowitz, an attorney for Peerenboom, told the Hollywood Reporter that police were informed of the plan to collect DNA and they were OK with it.

Peerenboom’s legal team claimed the DNA test implicated Perlmutter’s wife, according to a prior report by the New York Times. But Perlmutter alleges the first test was exculpatory, and the results were distorted for a second interpretation.

A court filing now raises suspicions about a different individual, a fired employee at Mandrake, the Toronto Sun reported.

The filing says the fired employee used a different name to ship a package to Miami with a warning: Letters would be sent to prisoners accusing Peerenboom of child molestation unless he leaves Palm Beach. Perlmutter says he has now been exonerated.

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