• Glorious Court Victories for Borat
  • October 28, 2008
  • Law Firm: Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP - Los Angeles Office
  • A Manhattan federal court has dismissed lawsuits by three of the people who interacted with Sacha Baron Cohen's fictional character in the blockbuster mockumentary “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.”

    The driver's education teacher in Baltimore who gave Borat a driving lesson and two etiquette coaches had sued Baron Cohen and 20th Century Fox for allegedly engaging in fraudulent tactics to gain their participation in the movie.

    In a September 3 ruling, U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska (who has just been nominated to the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit) wrote that all three plaintiffs consented to taking part in a "documentary-style movie" by signing releases absolving the filmmakers from liability and accepting consideration for their appearances.

    In the film, Baron Cohen plays a Kazakhstani journalist named Borat filming a documentary about America. He interacts with people who are unaware that Borat is a fictional character, with frequently hilarious results. A number of participants who didn’t appreciate the film’s humor—at their expense—sued, claiming the filmmakers tricked them, and that they’d agreed to be filmed for something other than what was released.

    So far, the courts have largely sided with the moviemakers.

    In April, Preska threw out a defamation claim brought by the businessman whom Borat tries to hug on the streets of New York City. And in February 2007, a Los Angeles judge granted 20th Century Fox's motion to dismiss a lawsuit brought by two of the fraternity brothers with whom Borat hitched a ride, and declined to require the studio to cut out the scene from future screenings or DVD editions.