Friday, April 24, 2009

Borat Litigation Overview

In 2006, Sacha Baron Cohen and Twentieth Century Fox brought Cohen's disarming foreign journalist to the big screen. Despite initial predictions the film would flop, it went on to earn $260M and garner top awards and nominations.

Plaintiffs in one of the ten Borat lawsuits alleged in their complaint that "what makes Borat funny is seeing how ordinary people react to him."

If so, it is equally true that there is entertainment -- as well as wisdom -- to be found in the judicial reactions to Borat, and the pending appeals of these reactions. Dismissed unhappy participants disagree with judicial opinions lauding the British/Kazakh Cohen/Borat for showing us America's racist, sexist, xenophobic underbelly. To assist your study and enjoyment of the Borat litigation, I have posted and analyzed the primary legal filings.

This litigation was brought by two sets of plaintiffs:
In Case 1, two "Frat Does" sued the producers for allegedly tricking them into agreeing to be in the film and portraying them in an alleged "false light."

In Case 2, a "Rodeo Doe" sued for using an image of him -- it filled the screen -- wearing a cap with a graphic containing a harley and a confederate flag.

Both cases were dismissed by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Biderman, who granted the producers' anti-SLAPP motion. The plaintiffs failed to carry their burden to show they were likely to prevail on their "damages" fraud claim, a fatal blow to the complaints, Collectively, plaintiffs paid nearly $100,000 in fees to the producers.

This litigation was brought by two sets of plaintiffs:
In Case 1, a man shown running away from Borat sued the producers under a New York Civil Rights Law.

In Case 2, a driver's education instructor sued, saying he deserved more than the $500 he was paid for his participation, because he was never let in on the joke.

Complaints brought by Southern etiquette teachers ("Dinner Party Plaintiffs") were transferred from
Alabama to New York and consolidated with the driver's ed case, above, for purposes of dismissal. Judge Preska of the Federal District Court, Southern District, New York found the film served a "public interest" and that the plaintiffs could not claim fraudulent inducement where they had signed an agreement expressly releasing the producers from any reliance on "surprise about the nature of the film or any statements made by anyone about the nature of the film."

Appellants' and Respondent's Briefs in New York Cases 1 and 2 have been filed with the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.

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