Bankruptcy courts are in the business of administering debtors’ assets, using those assets to pay creditors. Typically the assets sold to satisfy debts might be real estate, investment accounts, cash, horses, cars, antiques, or pieces of art. It’s rather unusual for creditors to be awarded the rights to a book, and particularly a book written by a man accused of murder, telling how the murders might have been accomplished!
For almost twenty-five years, I’ve spent a good part of each work week in bankruptcy court representing my many Indiana bankruptcy law clients. Most cases are settled with no fanfare, and in a very private manner. So it was a great contrast for me to follow the sensationalized story of O.J. Simpson and how a Florida bankruptcy court decision changed the way in which his book “If I Did It” is being sold.
By way of a quick reminder, in 1994, Nicole Brown Simpson and friend Ron Goldman were murdered at O.J. and Nicole Simpson’s home in California. Football hero and TV personality O.J. Simpson was tried for the crime and ultimately found not guilty. The victims’ families then brought a civil suit against Simpson, in which he was found liable for the killings. The civil court awarded $19 million in damages to the Goldman family and $12.5 million to the estate of Nicole Brown. O.J. then moved to Florida and announced his plan to write “If I Did It”, telling about how he might have committed the crimes. His intention was to make money from the book sales.
The Goldmans’ suit against O.J. Simpson to recover the money they had been awarded by the civil court is what drove O.J. to file bankruptcy. The Florida bankruptcy court awarded all rights to the book to the Goldmans to partially satisfy the unpaid civil judgment, marking the end of one of the most unusual bankruptcy stories I’ve ever heard.