PHOENIX — A Tennessee couple whose soldier son was killed in Iraq want to expand their lawsuit against an Arizona online merchant of anti-war T-shirts to cover more than 4,000 casualties and seek more than $40 billion in damages.
An amended complaint filed on behalf of Robin and Michael Read of Greeneville, Tenn., seeks to make the lawsuit against Dan Frazier of Flagstaff a class-action case.
With the change, it would cover the heirs of all U.S. service members killed in the Middle East since Sept. 11, 2001, and seek $4 billion of 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 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 filed April 29 in federal court in Tennessee says Frazier has no right to make a profit from commercial sale of products using the casualties’ names without permission.
That is a concept “that even a mentally-challenged monkey could grasp,” but Frazier had been quoted in an Associated Press article as saying he was not worried by the original suit, the amended lawsuit stated.
With the expanded dollar amounts of damages, “even the aforesaid ‘mentally challenged monkey’ should be worried about potential exposure in this amount,” the suit concluded.
Once served with the suit, Frazier will ask that it be transferred to the federal court in Arizona, which has already begun considering Frazier’s 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 the Arizona law making violations a misdemeanor crime violates the First Amendment.
Arizona is among several states that have enacted similar laws.
Though it would probably be as much of a hardship for the Reads to have their case decided in Arizona as it would be for Frazier to have it heard in Tennessee, it makes sense for the Arizona court to handle the case because of related work done on the Frazier lawsuit, Phillips said.
The Reads’ attorney, Frank Santore, said in an e-mail that court rules barred him from comment.