'Bruno' bingo victim drops assault and battery claims

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'Bruno' bingo victim drops assault and battery claims

Fri Jul 10, 2009 @ 05:57PM PST

By Matthew Belloni

Olson,Richelle Remember the woman who filed a lawsuit claiming "Bruno" star Sacha Baron Cohen accosted her at a charity bingo event and caused her to suffer a "brain bleed"?

Now she's changing her story a bit. After viewing taped footage of the alleged incident, Richelle Olson's lawyer filed an amended lawsuit this afternoon dropping causes of action for assault and battery against the ribald comedian, instead focusing the 9-count complaint on the "emotional distress" that allegedly caused Olson to fall and become confined to a wheelchair.

The original complaint, filed on June 3, claimed Baron Cohen and his crew got into a scuffle with Olson. But the allegations of a physical altercation are now gone. Olson still says she was fraudulently told that Bruno was a celebrity and would participate in a May 2007 charity bingo game she ran in Palmdale, Calif. When Baron Cohen showed up in character, he allegedly caused a disturbance. Olson was so distraught by the antics that she abruptly left the stage for a side room and was consoled by an employee of the charity. She then "stood up to acknowledge the employee and simultaneously lost consciousness, falling forward onto the thinly covered concrete slab and causing her to slam her forehead against the concrete," the amended complaint says. She was rushed to the hospital and has allegedly been in a wheelchair and crutches ever since.

After the original complaint was filed on June 3, Universal Pictures, which is a defendant and is releasing the movie this weekend, immediately fired back at Olson, claiming that taped footage of the "altercation" showed that no assault took place. A letter from the film's lawyer later claimed that it was actually Olson that "assaulted Mr. Baron Cohen, grabbing his arms from behind and attempting to pull him out of a chair."

Bruno Universal's lawyers then showed the footage to Olson's lawyer Kyle Madison, who today amended the complaint to drop the assault and battery claims. But Olson says the lawsuit isn't any less serious.

"The amendment to the original complaint does not change the cause of the injuries plead in the original complaint," Madison says. "Mrs. Olson's brain injuries were never alleged to have been derived from an assault or battery. She suffered two brain bleeds after the confrontation ensued with Mr. Baron Cohen. According to California case law, any injuries deriving from intentional infliction of emotional distress are recoverable. Mr. Baron Cohen and those associated with the production of 'Bruno,' are accountable for inflicting serious emotional distress and the resulting injuries to Mrs. Olson."

Universal has not yet responded to a request for comment. UPDATE: Universal reps say the studio isn't commenting on the new filing.

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The Hollywood Reporter, Esq. blog focuses on how the entertainment and media industries are impacted and influenced by the law. It is edited by Matthew Belloni with contributions from veteran legal reporter Eriq Gardner and others. Before joining The Hollywood Reporter, Belloni was a lawyer at an entertainment litigation firm in Los Angeles. He writes a column for THR devoted to entertainment law. Gardner is a New York-based writer and legal journalist. Send tips or comments to Matthew.Belloni@thr.com

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