Ultimately, a federal jury in a Los Angeles courtroom sided with the story told by the executor for the estate of Elaine Steinbeck, the deceased third wife of famed American author John Steinbeck, in a prolonged legal dispute pitting the estate against Steinbeck's son and daughter-in law.
Although the dispute between the parties was long, notably vitriolic and facially complex, it essentially boiled down to a single contention, namely this: the estate's claim that the defendants' bad-faith actions over many years unlawfully interfered with the opportunity to promote the author's legacy through new adaptations of his already famous works.
Those works include the seminal novels "Grapes of Wrath" and "East of Eden," which estate executor Waverly Scott Kaffaga -- Elaine Steinbeck's daughter and the author's stepdaughter -- had long considered as viable candidates for new film offerings. In fact, the estate had for several years been receiving inquiries from entertainment icons interested in working with Steinbeck's material, including director Steven Spielberg.
Kaffaga says that adaptation opportunities were repeatedly sabatogued by the defendants' efforts over the years to purposefully -- and unlawfully -- interfere with potential deals.
Although Steinbeck's son is now dead, his daughter-in-law was a prominent presence during the trial. In emails introduced into evidence, juries heard her comments that estate deals with studio principals would result in "litigation city" and that the estate's legal woes would not end "until I draw my last breath."
The jury found those comments and additional evidence featuring at trial to be dispositive and awarded Kaffaga $13 million in compensatory and punitive damages for unlawful interference against the estate's legitimate business opportunities.
The defendants state that they will appeal.