Michael Jordan already won big in Chicago this year, walking out of the federal courthouse last month with an $8.9 million verdict against the defunct Dominick’s grocery chain.
Now, his lawyers say they are in talks with Jewel-Osco, meaning he may settle before attempting a repeat performance in December against Dominick’s former rival. Still, Jordan lawyer Frederick Sperling reminded a judge Wednesday of Jordan’s notoriously competitive nature.
“He’s always strived to excel and do better the next time,” Sperling warned.
Jordan sued Jewel and Dominick’s after each published an ad in a limited-edition issue of Sports Illustrated to commemorate his induction into basketball’s hall of fame in 2009. Jewel’s ad featured a pair of white-and-red sneakers with the number “23” on the tongues. It called Jordan “a shoe in” and saluted “a fellow Chicagoan who was ‘just around the corner’ for so many years.”
The Dominick’s ad went further. It used Jordan’s name and number “23” and included a $2-off coupon for a Rancher’s Reserve steak. A federal jury awarded Jordan $8.9 million in damages in that case after a trial at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse last month. Before that trial began, a judge ruled the conglomerate that owned Dominick’s had violated the Illinois Right of Publicity Act.
That has not happened in the Jewel-Osco case.
Dominick’s has since asked U.S. District Judge Robert Blakey to either reduce the amount Jordan is able to collect or order a new trial. Meanwhile, Sperling noted Wednesday that the grocers now have a parent company in common, facilitating talks with Jordan’s legal team.
Sperling and Jewel’s lawyers appeared Wednesday before U.S. District Judge Gary Feinerman, who is presiding over the Jewel case. Feinerman pointed out that both sides have a reason to settle before trial. The judge said Jewel “saw what happened in the Dominick’s case” and may not want to risk suffering the same fate.
As for Jordan, Feinerman said, “things probably aren’t going to get any better.”