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I had three dogs as a boy. All were named Trouble. This was because my dad named all the dogs and he was not entirely convinced by my mom’s “A boy should have a dog” argument. In fact, Dad disliked pretty much everything about dogs. And cats. And ferrets and hamsters and birds and … well, let’s just say the concept of pets was one Dad never fully bought into. He was not only a flaming specist, he was a little paranoid about it: He seemed convinced all the planet’s small animals were in league against him, and hell-bent on his personal aggravation. The whole time I was growing up, I was not allowed to own a BB gun. But Dad always had one with which he threatened to shoot any bird, cat or neighborhood child who strayed into his backyard.[ 1] Mostly he just threatened, mainly because Mom usually responded by threatening to leave him if he ever actually shot anything. So Dad spent a lot of his leisure time, of which there was very little,[ 2] mumbling under his breath about Mrs. Adams’ cat or Mr. Chavez’s parrot or Mr. Ortlieb’s “yapping throw dog.”[ 3] And my brother and I spent a great deal of time trying to make sure none of the Troubles � or any of the neighbors’ pets or children � got underfoot.[ 4] We were the only people I knew whose dog was named Trouble. And we were the only people I’ve everknown whose dogs all had the same name.Dad didn’t say much, but he certainly knew how to make a point. So you can imagine how shocked I was to learn that another Trouble had shown up on the national news. It turns out the late Leona Helmsley’s dog is named Trouble. And she’s got some. This Trouble is an 8-year-old Maltese, a killer-cute little white throw dog. She lives on the late Ms. Helmsley’s Connecticut estate, the only occupant of the 28-room mansion other than the servants. I don’t know how many servants Trouble has, but I shouldn’t think she has much trouble finding good help, what with the $12 million her late mistress left her when she passed into the celestial Land of Milk and Money. That’s right. TWELVE MILLION DOLLARS. Trouble’s owner[ 5] left her $12 million. You wouldn’t think a dog with $12 million would have any … well … troubles, but this one does. This might be a good time to discuss Trouble’s owner. Tough call for me here: Which is the reader more likely to want more information about right now: multi-millionaire dog or looneytoon owner. Let’s go with looneytoon owner. You may be old enough to remember Leona Helmsley.[ 6] She was a real estate mogul. Her ruthless business methods, including some fairly heartless evictions, earned her the nickname “The Queen of Mean” back in the ’70s. In 1987, when she was convicted of tax evasion, one of her housekeepers testified she had once said, “We don’t pay taxes; the little people pay taxes.” With that attitude, it’s not surprising she seems to have been one of those people who inspires unanimity of opinion. No one had a good word for her. You know how there are some people you might cross the street to avoid talking to? Well, Leona Helmsley would make a train take a dirt road. All of which apparently worked really well for her. She was seriouslyrich. The $12 million the dog got was chump change. She was worth something like $5 billion. Five billion. That’s the number five followed by a parade of zeroes and commas and floats and marching bands. She once owned the Empire State Building, for crying out loud. That’s rich. And she seems to have been the opposite of my dad. While Dad was perpetually plotting the imminent demise of the next sparrow he saw, he loved people. Leona Helmsley left $12 million to her dog and disinherited two of her grandchildren. Completely. She said they would “know why.” True, she left her brother $15 million, but it was conditioned on him taking care of the dog! Honest! That’s why I say Trouble has trouble: The brother says he won’t do it. According to the Associated Press, ” The New York Post, citing an unidentified source, reported that [her brother, Alvin] Rosenthal, 80, expressed no interest in caring for Trouble. Whether her grandson David Panzirer, Helmsley’s second choice, would step in was not known.” David might want to give this some serious thought. True, he was not one of the disinherited grandchildren. He got $5 million. But the $5 million is conditioned on him visiting his father’s grave at least once every year.[ 7] A chance to triple your money by spooning some kibble into a dish twice a day might be a pretty sweet deal.[ 8] Especially since Trouble is gonna be pushing a hundred in dog years by 2013. It’s not like he has to marry J. Howard Marshall,[ 9] he just has to walk the dog. But it’s not all sunshine and chewbones. Ms. Helmsley’s will specified that when Trouble passes on to the Big Dog Park in the Sky, her earthly remains are to be buried with Ms. Helmsley. That would be fine, except that New York law does not allow animals to be buried in human cemeteries.[ 10] So a big chunk of Trouble’s money figures to go to the lawyers � and or legislators � hired to fix that little snafu. And a lot more will probably have to go to the lawyers charged with defending Trouble in the civil suit. That’s right, Trouble is being sued. David might want to consider whether he really wants to buy a Maltese that comes with a leash, a collar, a bowl, several servants and two lawsuits. Maybe a nice golden retriever would be a better choice. Seems one of Helmsley’s former housekeepers claims Trouble often bit her during her three-month job with the billionaire, and she wants a chunk of Trouble’s inheritance to assuage her pain and suffering. According to the AP, “Amfira Sfara, 48, had sued her employer in 2004 over one of those bites, but lost the case when a judge ruled Helmsley was protected from liability under the workers’ compensation law.” Now Amira’s son, Remus Pop, says his mother is entitled to a big bite of that $12 million. Remus Pop? The woman’s son is named Remus Pop? Who’s writing this story, Charles Dickens? [ 11] According to AP, Remus says, “That dog got money. That money is going to be taken away from that dog.” Frankly, it sounds like Remus and Leona would have gotten along famously. What a shame they ended up on opposite sides of this dispute. OK, class, let’s review. Housekeeper sues multibillionaire over dog bites. Gets thrown out of civil court into workers’ comp arena. Now dog has more money than the entire New York workers’ comp system, so housekeeper is suing dog directly (and the trust set up for the dog). Remus Pop is on the case. Discuss the following issues: Liability, assumption of the risk, agency, res judicataand/or collateral estoppel, trust liability for torts committed by a beneficiary before it was formed, federal diversity jurisdiction,[ 12] computation of punitive damages against a dog, name change for Remus Pop and whether the points and authorities for your demurrer should say more than, “Gimme a break, Judge; it’s a DOG!” Get that into me in two weeks. I won’t be here for next week’s class. I have to spend that time researching pedigrees. I have to figure out whether any of my Troubles were related to Leona’s. I mean, it ISan unusual name. Contributing writer William W. Bedsworth is an associate justice at the Fourth District Court of Appeal in Santa Ana. He writes this column to get it out of his system. He can be reached at [email protected]. You can read more columns like this in “A Criminal Waste of Time,” a book fromThe Recorder featuring more than 30 of the best columns from Justice Bedsworth. Order by calling (800) 587-9288 or visiting
Footnotes: [ 1] It wasn’t that he had anything against the neighborhood children; it was just that cats and birds required that he shoot fast, and his target acquisition software was pretty primitive. If it was small and moving, it was a target. [ 2] In fairness to Dad, he worked 70 hours a week at two jobs; there wasn’t much time to cuddle with the Troubles, or throw sticks for them to chase. He missed out on the good parts of pet ownership. [ 3] Dad felt the only thing Mr. Ortlieb’s Pekingese was good for was to “throw at any burglar who breaks in.” Hence, “throw dog.” [ 4] As near as we could determine, Dad was all talk, but it was pretty scary talk. [ 5] Yeah, I know that term has fallen out of favor in some quarters. The PETA people say it’s smacks of interspecies slavery. But the alternative seemed to me to be “mistress” and I’m pretty sure Ms. Helmsley, who was 87 when she died last month, would not like being referred to as anybody’s mistress. [ 6] Fortunately for you, that is NOT one of the questions on the MCLE quiz that follows this column. [ 7] Didn’t I see this movie? It’s New Year’s Eve and millionaire playboy grandson is out partying when he suddenly realizes he has to get to the cemetery before midnight or he’ll lose all his money, and goes racing through Manhattan only to trip over a small white Maltese and have to crawl the last hundred yards with the assistance of the good-hearted cocktail waitress who doesn’t know he’s rich? Dudley Moore and Goldie Hawn, right? 1985 or thereabouts? [ 8] It certainly makes me want to re-negotiate the agreement I have with my cats. [ 9] Don’t know the name? Neither did I, which is amazing because he was almost as rich as Leona Helmsley. Do what I did: Google Anna Nicole Smith. [ 10] How do we get laws like that? What’s the constituency for “no dead dogs in the human cemeteries” laws? Other than my father, that is. [ 11] Who plays Remus Pop in the movie? Snoop Dogg? I mean, there’s gotta be a part for him somewhere, right? [ 12] Did I mention Trouble is not a citizen?

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