Jury Rejects Deli Owner’s Claims Against Actor Paul Newman
BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (AP) _ A deli owner who lost a lawsuit against Paul Newman and his food companies says the court battle was a mismatch because of the actor’s status as a movie screen idol and philanthropist.
But members of the jury said they spent their time gazing on the evidence, not at the star, and Newman called Westport deli owner Julius Gold’s remarks ″sour grapes.″
Juror Gail McCulley said all but one of the six jurors began deliberations convinced that Gold’s claims were without merit. McCulley and juror Beverly Willis agreed that Newman’s celebrity status didn’t influence them.
″It made no difference who he was. We treated him just like we would you,″ Willis said. ″He was just another guy there, just another person.″
The Superior Court jury deliberated five hours over two days before deciding Thursday afternoon that Newman never promised Gold 8 percent stock in his businesses, Newman’s Own Inc. and Salad King Inc.
The Academy Award-winning actor was cheered as left the courthouse and quickly surrounded by a crowd of about 200 reporters and spectators.
″All right, Cool Hand Luke,″ yelled one well-wisher. ″Congratulations Paul,″ shouted another, as a couple of motorists tooted their horns.
Gold, the owner of a Westport deli, claimed he was owed the stock for helping Newman start the businesses in 1982 and 1983.
″I’m disappointed,″ Gold said. ″I brought the case because I thought I was wronged. I realized I was dealing with an uphill battle, going against a celebrity of world status.″
Newman said he felt sorry for Gold, but he said the suggestion he was helped by his fame was ″sour grapes and a lot of whining.″
″It’s just tragic all of this energy and time could not have been spent in more charitable pursuits, but that’s the nature of the beast,″ Newman said.
A.E. Hotchner, who is chief operating officer of Newman’s companies, was also a defendant. The jury found in his favor, concluding that Gold had not reached an ″implied contract″ with either him or the Newman companies.
Newman and Hotchner started Newman’s Own on a whim, beginning with salad dressing that Newman originally made in the basement of his Westport home. The product line was later expanded to include spaghetti sauce, popcorn and lemonade.
All profits - $28 million to date - have gone go to charity. The Westport- based companies had a record $42 million in sales last year, up from $36 million in 1988.
Gold testified that he, too, would give any proceeds to charity if he won the case.