'Borat' Suit Dies in Alabama, But May Rise Again in NYMon Jan 21, 2008 @ 12:46AM PST
Posted by Matthew Heller
It's been at least a couple weeks since we checked in with one of the many, many "Borat"-related cases pending around the country. Friday brought news that the Alabama Supreme Court has dealt a serious blow to an etiquette teacher's case against the makers of the raunchy faux-documentary, but reports of its demise may be exaggerated.
The court found Kathie Martin cannot sue “Borat” star Sacha Baron Cohen and the film's production companies in Alabama because she signed an agreement which requires that any claim arising from her appearance in the film be brought in New York. But the decision was purely jurisdictional -- and Martin has already filed court papers in Manhattan Supreme Court in an apparent attempt to make sure any suit in that venue is not time-barred under the one-year statute of limitations.
The papers consist of a “summons with notice,” which, in New York, can be filed as an alternative to filing a summons and complaint. They are dated Oct. 22, 2007 -– just under one year after the general release of “Borat.”
In the film, Martin tries to teach the title character the finer points of dining etiquette. He reciprocates by showing her nude photos of his "son." She sued in Alabama in December 2006, alleging fraud, misappropriation of her likeness, and invasion of privacy.The suit ultimately did not get past the threshold issue of jurisdiction. The Alabama Supreme Court reversed a trial judge who ruled that the forum-selection clause in the contract between Martin and Springland Films was not enforceable because Springland is not qualified to do business in Alabama.
The "Borat" producers are also trying to enforce the same forum-selection clause in a suit filed in Alabama by another etiquette teacher and four of her guests who had the misfortune of dining with Borat. A motion to dismiss for improper venue is pending in that case.