On Thursday, a federal judge from the state of California ruled that $187,000 in attorney’s fees must be paid by a United States Army veteran who lost a lawsuit that claimed Summit Entertainment LLC turned his life story into the movie known as ‘The Hurt Locker,’ according to Law360.
The judge who issued the ruling, United States District Judge Jacqueline H Nguyen, came to the conclusion that Master Sgt. Jeffrey Sarver should be held responsible for paying defense costs for the filmmaker. Those defense costs tally $37,900 for screenwriter Mark Boal and director Kathryn Bigelow. Judge Nguyen also ordered Sarver to pay legal fees to the film’s production team in the sum of $89,800 and $59,300 to the film studio of Summit.
Sarver argued in court that the fees were unreasonable and excessive, but his argument was shot down by Judge Nguyen. Judge Nguyen said that the defense counsel was able to competently litigate the case until the claims made by Sarver were dismissed with prejudice.
“In this case, the experience, reputation and ability of the defense attorneys support a finding of reasonableness,” Judge Nguyen said. “In fact, defendants’ attorneys indicate that several of them charged well below their ordinary rates in this matter.”
Eisner Kahan & Gorry was the firm that represented the defendants, led by Tim Gorry, who said that the case had been long and highly involved. Gorry also said that he was “glad the court recognized the value of the services we’ve rendered to our clients.”
The complaint filed by Sarver was struck by Judge Nguyen back in October, saying that ‘The Hurt Locker’ is covered under the transformative use defense. This defense protects creative productions that fictionalize people or events. In addition, Judge Nguyen filed a ruling citing the anti-SLAPP statute. The anti-SLAPP statute dismisses meritless First Amendment cases, which makes it mandatory for defendants to be entitled to attorney’s fees.
Sarver served as a Army explosive ordnance disposal technician from 2004 to 2005 in Iraq. He filed the suit in March of 2010, claiming that even though ‘The Hurt Locker’ claimed to be a fictional film, the movie was based on his own personal story. The lawsuit also claimed that Sarver’s right of publicity was violated. The lawsuit also included claims of false light, breach of contract, defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress and fraud.
Boal is also a writer for Playboy magazine, who traveled with Sarver’s company while in Baghdad in December of 2004. Boal published an article in Playboy in 2005 that was centered on the personal life of Sarver. Boal then worked on ‘The Hurt Locker,’ a film that was awarded quite a few Oscars.
The film studio and other defendants are represented by Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP, Blank Rome LLP, Kinsella Weitzman Iser Kump & Aldisert LLP and Eisner Kahan & Gorry. Cozen O’Connor, Fieger Fieger Johnson & Giroux PC, and the Law Officers of Todd Weglarz and Linda George represent Sarver.