Appeals court finds no 'Borat' fraud

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Appeals court finds no 'Borat' fraud

Mon Dec 14, 2009 @ 11:55AM PST

By Eriq Gardner

Borat-high-five The Second Circuit Court of Appeals has affirmed the dismissal of a lawsuit against 20th Century Fox and Sacha Baron Cohen over the making of "Borat."

Several plaintiffs had claimed they were duped into appearing in the hit comedy after the filmmakers fraudulently misrepresented themselves. The plaintiffs each signed waivers but argued that they were ambiguous and limited to a "documentary-style film."

First the district court, and now the appeals court, both say that "Borat" is indeed a documentary-style film. In other words, there wasn't any misrepresentation by legal standards.

A question arose over how much information the filmmakers had to provide the plaintiffs before they signed their waivers. The appeals court found that the info provided was sufficient and that the plaintiffs couldn't claim they were fraudulently induced into signing by relying on representations. According to the ruling, "plaintiffs apparently appeared in the film without taking any steps to confirm the oral representations on which they claim to have relied, even such cost-free steps as asking to meet the 'reporter' or to learn his name." 

The release of "Borat" introduced a flood of litigation, but so far, no claims have been successful. Baron Cohen is facing litigation on other ends — most recently a $110 million lawsuit by a Palestinian individual over "Bruno" — but we have doubts about whether that will stick. A lawsuit brought by a woman who claimed she was put in a wheelchair by the infamous comedian's antics has gone nowhere. For now, mockumentary makers seem to be on solid legal footing.

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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 [email protected]

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