An Illinois jury awarded Michael Jordan $8.9 million in damages in his case against Dominick’s Finer Foods LLC (now owned by Safeway Inc.) arising out of a one-time violation of his publicity rights under the Illinois Right of Publicity Act. 

An Illinois jury awarded Michael Jordan $8.9 million in damages in his case against Dominick’s Finer Foods LLC (now owned by Safeway Inc.) arising out of a one-time violation of his publicity rights under the Illinois Right of Publicity Act. The case concerned Dominick’s unauthorized use of his name and his iconic number “23” in a full-page ad in a commemorative issue of Sports Illustrated magazine celebrating Mr. Jordan’s career. The ad featured the tagline “You are a cut above” with a coupon for $2.00 off Rancher’s Reserve tender angus steak.

A federal judge had previously granted in part Mr. Jordan’s motion for summary judgment, holding that Dominick’s violated the Illinois Right of Publicity Act by misappropriating Mr. Jordan’s identity. Mr. Jordan voluntarily withdrew his remaining claims, and the only issue before the jury was the proper amount of damages.

The recent verdict comes in the final stage of years-long litigation against Dominick’s which Mr. Jordan originally filed in the Circuit Court of Cook County in December of 2009. We have previously reported on a similar suit filed by Mr. Jordan pending against Jewel Foods Store, Inc. which is currently set for trial in December.

TIP: Even a one-time unauthorized use of a celebrity’s name or likeness may result in a claim by the celebrity for substantial monetary damages. Although Mr. Jordan is clearly among the elite celebrity endorsers, this damages award is likely to encourage other celebrities to be more aggressive in asserting their rights against advertisers who use their name or likeness without permission.