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BOCC votes to sell shell car to Rambo

By Staff | May 24, 2019

At its recent meeting, the Lee County Board of County Commissioners unanimously approved a proposed settlement agreement in the litigation involving the well-known Shell Love Bug.

On May 21, the commission voted 4-0 to approve the terms of the settlement.

“Thank you, Jesus,” Commissioner Frank Mann said immediately after.

Debuted at the 2016 National Seashell Day, the Shell Love Bug was created by Pam Rambo, of iLoveShelling.com and Kirby Rambo Collections – with the help of dozens of volunteers. She owned the copyright to the artwork on it, but the county owned the title to the 2005 Volkswagen Beetle.

Prior to the vote, Lee County Attorney Richard Wesch outlined the proposal for the board.

“Commissioners, as you’re intimately aware of this litigation, it has been going on for quite some time,” he said.

According to county documents, Kirby Rambo Collections filed a lawsuit in federal court in March 2018 against the county, suing for copyright infringement and several state law claims arising from the car. In the suit, Kirby Rambo Collections has been seeking monetary damages against the county and ownership of the vehicle.

A U.S. District Court previously ruled that Kirby Rambo Collections was not entitled to ownership or possession of the car under state law. The remaining claims pertained to the copyright allegations.

According to the documents, while the Lee County Attorney’s office and outside legal counsel have been protecting the county’s interests throughout the litigation, they have also been engaged in efforts to resolve the case. On May 20, Kirby Rambo Collections submitted the settlement on the table as a response to a counteroffer from the county.

At the meeting, Wesch explained for the commission that the terms of the proposal included Kirby Rambo Collections purchasing the Shell Love Bug – as-is with no warranties – for $4,900.

“It is a fair compromise of the market value of the vehicle,” he said.

Kirby Rambo Collections agreed to dismiss its lawsuit with prejudice, meaning that the underlying claims could not be refiled against the county. In addition, the county agreed not to contest the validity of the copyright relating to the design of the shells affixed to the vehicle and it agreed not to use any materials relating to the car in the future.

The terms also stated that the parties are responsible for their own attorney’s fees and costs.

“Each party will bare its own attorney’s fees,” Wesch said.

“This matter will be resolved, they’ll be no further litigation,” he said of an approval.

A motion was made and seconded to accept the settlement.

There was no public comment nor discussion from the commission.

The motion carried unanimously with the vote.

Attorney Zach Lombardo, of the Naples firm Woodward Pires & Lombardo, which is representing Kirby Rambo Collections and Rambo, declined to comment today on the commission vote.

“We’re waiting for various things to be finalized,” he said.

Rambo could not be reached for comment.