LAS VEGAS (AP) - Rodney Dangerfield was awarded $725,000
on Thursday by jury that believed the comedian's eye problems
were caused by a steam bath accident at Caesars Palace.
Dangerfield sued the casino-hotel for $5 million after Caesars
balked at paying him for shows he missed after he claimed
he was burned in a steam bath in March 1988.
"We showed Rodney some respect," an unidentified juror
said after Dangerfield thanked jurors as they left U.S. District Court.
The jury deliberated less than a day before awarding Dangerfield
$225,000 for five missed performances and $500,000 for pain and suffering.
The jury ruled that Dangerfield's contract obligated Caesars
to pay for the missed shows because the injury should have
excused him from performing. It rejected a $100,000 countersuit
filed by Caesars against its former headliner.
"The truth won out," said Dangerfield. He decried as "nonsense
and untrue" Caesars' accusations that he used drugs.
"I'm surprised they went to that level to degrade me falsely
like they did," Dangerfield said. "All they did in this
entire trial was to try to degrade my character.
"I wasn't concerned with the amount of money," he said.
"Money is money. I was concerned about the truth. I was
right. I wouldn't have gone through this unless I was right."
Dangerfield said Henry Gluck, chairman of the resort's parent
Caesars World Inc., had refused an offer to settle for $225,000.
"We're very disappointed," said Bruce Aguilera, attorney
for the casino. "We'll have to have our lawyers look at the case.
Dangerfield sought $5 million in damages plus $45,000 for
each show he missed the week of the accident, claiming Caesars
was negligent in installing and maintaining a steam bath.
The hotel, in its countersuit, accused Dangerfield of breaching
his contract and contended during the 2 1/2-week-long trial
that the comedian did not suffer permanent damage.
The 68-year-old comic testified he was hit in the eyes by
a burst of steam as he opened the door to the steam room on March 16, 1988.
He skipped four performances, then returned for two shows
but walked off the stage without performing on closing night
because he was angry that Caesars wanted to withhold payment
for the missed shows.
Caesars claimed Dangerfield went out on the town two nights
that he claimed he was too hurt to perform. A doctor who
examined him after the incident said that Dangerfield could
have performed. Other eye specialists testified for the
casino-hotel that symptoms Dangerfield claimed to suffer
only since the accident actually first appeared in the 1970s.