• Estate of Screen Writer Cannot Amend Complaint to State Additional Claims Stemming from Robert Ludlums Jason Bourne Movies: Lazzarino v Warner Bros. Enter., Inc. et al.
  • August 24, 2013 | Author: Aaron E. Zerykier
  • Law Firm: Farrell Fritz, P.C. - Uniondale Office
  • In a June 3, 2013 decision by Justice Friedman, the court denied a motion to amend a pleading, finding that based on the express language of the contracts at issue and law of the case, the proposed amendments failed to state viable causes of action. The litigation arose from a joint venture to produce a movie based on Robert Ludlum’s book “The Bourne Identity.” The joint venture entered into an agreement with Orion Pictures Company for production of the film. The parties to the joint venture had a falling out and assigned all of their rights in the joint venture to plaintiff and agreed in a stipulation not to interfere with or diminish Orion’s obligations under its agreement with the joint venture or plaintiff.

    Warner Brothers succeeded to Orion, and did not make the movie. Rather, it sold its rights to make the movie back to Ludlum. Ludlum subsequently sold the rights to the movie to Universal Pictures, which produced the movie. One of the former joint ventures negotiated the sale of Ludlum’s rights to Universal Pictures. Plaintiff brought suit against Warner Brothers, Orion, Universal and Ludlum’s estate based on the original agreement with Orion. He also brought suit against his former co-joint venturer, alleging that his negotiation of the Universal Picture deal violated the parties’ stipulation. The plaintiff’s estate sought to amend the complaint to modify its allegations of breaches of the stipulation to seek additional damages and to state claims against Warner Brothers. The Court denied the motion to amend finding that the proposed claims against the former co-joint venturer failed to state a cause of action based on the express wording of the parties’ agreements and the claims against Warner Brothers were barred by law of the case.

    Of note, in a footnote the Court discussed the standard applied in deciding a motion to amend and the need to show a meritorious cause of action. The Court specifically noted that there were different standards applied by different courts and “appellate clarification as to the quantum of showing of merit would be welcome.”

    Lazzarino v Warner Bros. Enter., Inc. et al., Sup Ct, New York County, June 3, 2013, Friedman, J, Index No. 602029/2005.