Stella Case No. 081, Originally Published: 27 October 2004
Mark Guthrie, 43, is a former newspaper carrier for the Hartford Courant of Connecticut, which is owned by the Tribune Co. of Chicago, Ill. There is also a baseball player by the name of Mark Guthrie, who is five years younger than the carrier; he formerly played for the Chicago Cubs, which is also owned by the Tribune Co.
In 2003, the Tribune’s payroll department mixed the two men up and deposited $301,000 of the baseball player’s pay into the newspaper carrier’s bank account. It took five weeks for the company to detect the error. The low-paid delivery man noticed the money, but didn’t touch it out of fear — he knew it was a mistake, and cooperated with Tribune when the baseball pitcher wanted his misplaced salary.
But Guthrie of Connecticut stopped the last $26,000 from being taken out of his account until the company proved to him that he would not suffer any tax ramifications over the company’s error. “I need them to open the books to me and show me I don’t have any tax liabilities,” he said. “It’s mind-boggling. They never should have made the mistake to begin with.” Plus, he says, he thinks his own pay was given to the baseball player. All he wants, he says, is a full accounting so he knows he was paid correctly and won’t suffer financially from Tribune’s mistake.
Tribune, not about to be jerked around by one of its newsboys, balked. In 2004, rather than provide the accounting the carrier so reasonably asked for, the company sued him, demanding the return of the rest of the money. “We have no desire to embarrass Mr. Guthrie or bring undue attention to his actions,” says Cubs attorney Paul Guggina. “We just want the money back.” The Connecticut Guthrie has hired his own lawyer, and now says he won’t settle until Tribune pays for that expense, too.
Guthrie, the baseball player, didn’t get picked up by the Cubs and is now a free agent. Guthrie, the newspaper carrier, was also dropped by the media conglomerate due to the lawsuit — and is presumably also now a free agent.
- “Payments Spawn Lawsuit; Tribune Sues Ex-Worker, Seeking Misdirected Money”, Hartford Courant, 10 September 2004.
The case concluded as it had to: with an “undisclosed agreement,” and was thus “dismissed for lack of prosecution by the Cubs” in court. Mark Guthrie (the former newspaper carrier) declared himself “satisfied” with the agreement. Mark Guthrie (the Cubs player who by then no longer played for the team, and apparently retired from the game) probably only knew what he read in the newspaper. The Cubs’ lawyer was “unavailable for comment” …so the team shoved a “media relations intern” toward the reporter to declare “No comment.” What wusses.
Source: “Erroneous Pay Case Is Resolved”, Hartford Courant, 10 March 2005.
My 2021 Thoughts on the Case
This was a dumb strikeout for the Cubs and Tribune. The Guthrie (the news carrier) had a very legitimate request. Was it heavy handed to withhold some of the money? Sure, but that was the only leverage he had against the giant, well-lawyered company. It was a P.R. nightmare that The Court of Public Opinion had to turn its attention to the case. The Trib Corp. whiffed it.
Letters and Comments
Now and then I get a letter from a total crank. (Note that I’m not calling attorneys who simply disagree with me “cranks”!) It’s instructive to see the “thinking” that drives such people.
This month, that would be Ellen from, as far as I can tell, New Jersey. I’ll leave all spelling and punctuation as she made it, which also helps show her “thinking.” She wrote: “how much money do you get from private industry such as insurers and of course you leave alot of facts out of the case typical — you are a liar.” I replied that we get no money from insurers or anyone else, except for advertisers, as noted on the web site’s About page — and asked exactly which “case” she referred to.
She replied: “you sure are credible you are yoaur own source and then you don’t even bother to keep up your lies Get the McFacts liar! I do know the facts of the McDonalds’ case including the reduction of the award — which you never seem to mention and the fact that McDonald’s knew before the accident the coffee was too hot you are clearly a tool and not the sha perhaps your are ignorant of the facts but I doubt it perhaps the Randys need to be awarded for the stupidest statement made in public.”
Ah: she’s talking about the original “Stella” case. So I asked her if she actually has read what I had to say about that case, including the fact that Stella’s multi-million-dollar award was reduced. It’s been on my web site for years.
Sure enough: no reply.
Such people don’t care about facts; they’re simply terrified at being called to task for their idiotic lawsuits, and their own ideas of what’s fair. There’s no debate allowed: just semi-literate screaming at someone when they haven’t even asked what their position might be. So, at Ellen’s suggestion, I hereby give out the first Award for Stupidest Statement Made in Public. Congratulations, Ellen! And in the tradition of such awards, I’ll name it for its first recipient — yes, it simply must be called …The Ellen Award.
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