A former employee who sued Collectors Universe, parent company of PSA and PSA/DNA, lost his $10 million claim against the company over some unauthorized letters of autograph authenticity.
A California state Appellate Court has issued its decision in the William Miller case, ruling that the former Collectors Universe employee is not entitled to the statutory damages of $10.5 million he had been seeking.
In August 2004, Miller claimed Collectors Universe placed his name and signature on over 1,000 PSA/DNA Certificates of Authenticity which indicated that he had examined items being authenticated. Miller said he had never seen the items and his original suit alleged violation of his right to privacy through the unauthorized use of his name. At the time, a Collectors Universe executive said the company "failed to adequately stop the flow" of the certificates after Miller said he no longer wanted his name on them.
Miller claimed 14,060 authentication certificates issued by Collectors Universe contained his facsimile signature. In November 2005, a jury in Superior Court of California found in Miller’s favor but the judge left the damages up to an appeals court. The Superior Court judge did award Miller $14,060 ($1 per signature), representing Collector’s Universe’s profits on the autographs. Miller appealed, believing he was entitled, under California law, to damages of $750 for each alleged use of his name by Collectors Universe without his consent, a claim totalling $10.5 million.
At the time Miller said, "For the rest of my life, I will live with the uncomfortable feeling that at any time I might be held responsible for someone who authenticated an autograph I never looked at. When an item turns out to be not genuine, as we have already found to be the case in a number of instances, it’s my name which will bear the responsibility and my reputation, carefully built over 15 years, which will be damaged."
However, the appeals court ruled that the use of his name constituted, at most, a single violation of the statute in question and, therefore, Miller is not entitled to multiply $750 by the number of times his name was used.
The court did rule that Miller has the right to seek a retrial at which he may attempt to prove that Collectors Universe violated the statute at issue or common law, and if so, how he was damaged by Collectors Universe. Miller would not be allowed to seek damages based on the calculation of certificates multiplied by the $750 figure.
The court’s decision becomes final in 30 days. During that period, Miller could petition the court to reconsider its decision. At the end of the 30-day period, Miller will have a period of 10 days within which to file a petition for review by the California Supreme Court.