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Jurors reject Ringling Bros. circus heirs’ claims

A legal battle between Kenneth Feld, CEO of Feld Entertainment, whose properties include Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, and his sister, Karen Feld, has ended with jurors determining that neither side had proved its case, the Associated Press reported.

The Felds' father, Irvin Feld, was a rock 'n' roll promoter who bought the Ringling Bros. circus in 1967. The company also presents Disney on Ice, drag racing and monster truck shows.

Karen Feld, 63, sued Kenneth, 62, for $110 million for assault. After a two-week trial in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., jurors rejected her claim that he ordered his security guards to assault her at a memorial service for their aunt. They also rejected his counterclaim that she trespassed at the 2007 shiva by shouting anti-Semitic obscenities, according to the AP report.

Karen Feld said she has a history of brain injuries that cause seizures. She testified she couldn't control what she was saying when she went into one of her episodes at the penthouse apartment where her aunt's memorial service was held and where she lived with her brother as a youth. She said her brother's guards harmed her by dragging her out of the service and she eventually needed to have a tumor removed because of their assault and battery.

The AP report noted that the Feld siblings have a long history of animosity:

The case is the culmination of decades of estrangement between the Feld siblings, the only children of former circus owner Irvin Feld. Irvin Feld died in 1984 and passed ownership of Feld Entertainment and most of his wealth to his son, leading Karen Feld to file her first lawsuit against her brother. She won a settlement from that case and reached an agreement with her brother earlier this year in another suit over their uncle's estate.

An earlier AP article said:

Kenneth Feld has gone to great lengths to protect the family's privacy. He even hired a prominent former CIA covert operative to run a secret 8-year operation to spy on and divert an author who wanted to write a Feld family history. The author's revelations included Irvin Feld's homosexuality, his wife's suicide and his children's long-running feud.

The author, Jan Pottker, sued Kenneth Feld after the details of the spying plot were revealed in a lawsuit against Feld Entertainment by Kenneth Feld's former right-hand man, Charles Smith, whom Feld had fired. Both the Pottker and the Smith cases were eventually settled, the AP article said.

According to the AP's post-trial report, Karen Feld said on the witness stand that both her parents physically abused her and that she once walked in on her father having sex with her fiancé. "Kenneth Feld gave a much kinder portrayal of their family....," the article said.

The jury found that Karen Feld was falsely imprisoned by the private security guards her brother hired, but they also ruled the action was justified.

(Sources: Associated Press, May 24, 2011 and May 5, 2011.)

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