Judge drops Warner Bros. and screenwriter John Logan from the lawsuit which claims story behind “The Last Samurai” was stolen. Producers Edward Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz remain on the hook
While U.S. District Judge Philip S. Gutierrez ruled Tuesday that Warner Bros. and Logan did not violate an implied contact — there was no signed agreement — he declined to dismiss producers Edward Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz from the lawsuit.
Brothers Aaron and Matthew Benay sued the studio and the producers in 2005, saying that they pitched the script to Zwick and Herskovitz's Bedford Falls Company in 2000. They claim that Bedford Falls and Warners copied from the screenplay they wrote in 1999 without permission.
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Warners issued a statement Tuesday applauding the ruling. "We are gratified the District Court has completely vindicated us from this spurious claim.”
The lawsuit has followed a convoluted path.
In 2008, the Court dismissed the case, ruling that neither Warners nor Bedford Falls had based "Last Samurai" on the Benays' pitch. It also ruled there was no contract to sue over.
But an appellate court reversed part of that decision, ruling that the issue was whether an implied contract did, in fact, exist.
On Tuesday, Gutierrez ruled that there was no implied contract with Warners or Logan. A jury will decide whether there was one with Bedford Falls.
In the days before the lower court was to take up the case again, "all parties received copies of an anonymous letter attaching what purported to be three emails" with a Warner Bros. executive discussing the movie.
But the emails were fakes.
"All three emails are erroneously time-stamped 'Pacific Standard Time' instead of 'Pacific Daylight Time,' and all three contain the same subtle printing errors that purportedly show they were manufactured using a single blank template," the judge wrote.
Gutierrez wrote that there is no proof that the Benays created the fake document, and did not impose sanctions upon them.
Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.
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