Elvis Presley died 35 years ago last month (if he really did die and isn’t eating a cheeseburger somewhere as you read this). To commemorate the King (wherever he is), a recent Elvis-related decision: Estate of Nell G. Pepper v Whitehead (8th Cir, 31 July 2012). The case concerns a large collection of Elvis memorabilia amassed by the late Gary Pepper of Memphis, a personal friend of the singer and president of his fan club. Among the items were hair cuttings dating from the King’s army days, used handkerchiefs, wedding photographs and dried roses from his funeral (‘funeral’?). At auction in 2009, the stuff fetched just over US$250,000 (including 600 bucks for the hankies). But whose property (and whose quarter-million) was it? The estate of Pepper’s late wife Nell claimed that the collection had been wrongfully converted by Nancy Whitehead, who had cared for Gary and Nell’s disabled son in Memphis and then taken him (and the loot) to her home in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, during Nell’s incapacity resulting from severe depression and periodic mania after the death of her husband. The Iowa district court granted summary judgment for Whitehead on a limitations defence. This was recently reversed by the 8th Circuit appeals court, which concluded that conflicting facts about when the claim might have been discovered created genuine issues which ought to be resolved at trial.
For a classic conversion/unjust enrichment claim involving the gold piano from Graceland, see 148 Investment Group Inc v Elvis Presley Enterprises Inc, 1995 US App LEXIS 10688 (6th Cir, 10 May 1995).