AP – PHOENIX | A Tennessee couple who lost their son in Iraq want an Arizona merchant to pay more than $40 billion in damages to survivors of soldiers whose names are on the anti-war shirts he is selling online.
A complaint seeking class-action status for the lawsuit by Robin and Michael Read says Dan Frazier of Flagstaff has no right to profit from commercial sale of products that use the dead soldiers’ names without permission.
The change, requested Tuesday in federal court in Tennessee, would cover the heirs of all U.S. service members killed in the Middle East since Sept. 11, 2001, and seek $4 billion in compensatory damages and $36.5 billion of punitive damages.
The Reads’ original lawsuit named only themselves as plaintiffs and sought $10 million in compensatory and punitive damages.
Frazier’s “Bush lied – They died” T-shirts, sold at his site CarryaBigSticker.com, list Iraq war casualties’ names, and Frazier contends he is covered by First Amendment free-speech protections.
“We think it will be clear that this is political expression and not done for profit,” said Lee Phillips, Frazier’s attorney.
The Reads’ amended complaint says Frazier has no right to make a profit from the commercial sale of products using the casualties’ names without permission.
Frazier will ask that the lawsuit be transferred to the federal court in Arizona, which has already begun considering his challenge to an Arizona law barring use of slain service members’ names for commercial purposes without permission, Phillips said.
A federal judge in Arizona said in a preliminary ruling that a portion of that state’s law making violations a misdemeanor crime violates the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which guarantees freedom of speech and the press Arizona is among several states that have enacted similar laws.
The Reads’ attorney, Frank Santore, said in an e-mail that court rules barred him from comment.