Bette Midler Loses Ford Sound-Alike Lawsuit : Celebrity: $10-million suit over TV car commercial is dismissed but action against the ad agency is allowed to stand.

From Associated Press

Ford Motor Co. was off the hook today in singer-actress Bette Midler’s $10-million lawsuit, filed after a TV car commercial was made using an imitation of her singing voice.

U.S. District Court Judge A. Wallace Tashima ruled Thursday in Los Angeles that there was insufficient evidence to proceed against Ford, but allowed the remaining portion of the suit, naming the advertising agency Young & Rubicam Inc., to stand.

“We were pleased by the decision and it was a decision we anticipated based on Ms. Midler’s failure to present any evidence to prove her case against Ford,” said Howard J. Privett, attorney for the automobile manufacturer.


Midler’s attorneys declined to comment on the Thursday ruling.

The buxom singer-actress who appeared in such films as “Beaches” and “Outrageous Fortune” testified this week that the commercial caused irreparable damage to her reputation.

“I don’t do commercials,” she testified Wednesday. “I don’t believe in it. I resent people looking at that commercial and thinking that’s me. They think I sold out. It doesn’t matter if I win or lose this trial. The damage is done.”

The Grammy winner said one of her former backup singers was hired to perform the song “Do You Wanna Dance” for a 1986 Mercury Sable commercial after she turned Ford down.

Midler filed the U.S. District Court lawsuit in 1987 against Ford and Young & Rubicam Inc., but a judge threw out the case, saying the agency had acted like “the average thief” but had broken no laws.

An appeals court reinstated the lawsuit last year, ruling that “to impersonate her voice is to pirate her identity.”

Defense lawyers have said Young & Rubicam is allowed under copyright laws to imitate Midler’s 1971 rendition of the song.


Young & Rubicam’s lawyers were expected to complete their portion of the case today.