GRAND RAPIDS — A federal judge has declined to dismiss a lawsuit in which a son is suing his Grand Haven-area parents for destroying his extensive porn collection.
David Elliot Werking, who lives in Indiana, moved in with his parents in Grand Haven Township in October 2016, but then moved out the next year. He left several boxes of his personal property at his parents’ home when he moved.
When his parents, Paul and Beth Werking, opened the boxes, they found an extensive pornography collection. David Werking estimates the value of the collection to be just under $26,000, which includes 12 moving boxes of pornographic DVDs and VHS tapes and two additional boxes of belongings, including dozens of sex toys.
A detailed list included in the lawsuit cites more than 1,600 individual titles of pornographic films.
The elder Werkings were unwilling to transport the porn to their son in Muncie, Indiana, and were uncomfortable with having the items in their home. The Werkings admit to destroying their son’s property.
Although the pornography is destroyed, “the sex toys are currently held by defendants’ attorney for return to plaintiff upon an agreement as to the value of the items and reduction of the claim,” according to court documents.
“Frankly, David, I did you a big favor by getting rid of all this stuff for you,” Paul Werking wrote in an email to his son, which is now part of the court record. In another email, Paul Werking said, “Believe it or not, one reason why I destroyed your porn was for your own mental and emotional health.”
The parents’ attorney filed a motion in federal court to dismiss the case, stating they did not convert the pornography for their own use, a legal standard called statutory conversion that would be required in order for the case to be tried in federal court.
A federal case lawsuit requires a minimum damage claim of $75,000. Although the value of the porn collection has been estimated at $25,557.89, if David Werking can prove his parents converted the property for their own use, he can seek up to three times the value of the property. In that case, David Werking can seek $76,673.67 in damages, along with attorney fees.
In a written opinion earlier this month, Judge Paul Maloney cited another Michigan lawsuit about “own use” property before stating the lawsuit would not be dismissed and could move forward.
Maloney said the Werking lawsuit about “a trove of pornography and an array of sex toys” was similar to a Michigan case between a wine importer and a warehouse where the wine business stored its wine. Aroma Wines rented climate-controlled warehouse space from Columbian Distribution Services. When the wine company fell behind on its bills, the warehouse moved the wine to an uncontrolled warehouse space. A majority of the wine spoiled, so Aroma Wines sued, claiming the warehouse converted the wine to its own use.
The Michigan Court of Appeals ruled the wine company did have a right to sue, because “the defendant employed the converted property for some purpose personal to the defendant’s interests, even if that purpose is not the object’s ordinarily intended purpose.”
Even though the warehouse didn’t drink or sell the wine, they did move the wine to sell the space to other customers and used the wine as leverage for the unpaid bills. Therefore, they converted the wine for their own use.
“Applying the lesson to this case is as simple as substituting David (Werking) for Aroma Wines and Paul and Beth (Werking) for Columbian, and changing the subject matter from wine to pornography,” Maloney wrote in his opinion. “Paul ... told David that he was motivated to destroy the pornography out of concern for David’s mental and emotional health.”
Maloney’s opinion means the lawsuit will move forward from this point.
David Werking’s attorney filed a motion to move the case directly to determining damages on Aug. 22, to which the elder Werkings’ attorney has 28 days to respond.