• The Hollywood Reporter on LinkedIn
  • Follow THR on Pinterest

Woman Owes $900K After Failing To Convince Judge 'Monster-in-Law' Film Was Stolen From Her

Monster In Law
New Line Cinema/Courtesy Everett Collection

Remember the woman who sued Warner Bros., actresses Jennifer Lopez and Jane Fonda over the 2005 film Monster-in-Law?

The woman, Sheri Gilbert, has been ordered to pay them nearly a million dollars for bringing a meritless lawsuit.

As a refresher, Gilbert claimed there was something strangely familiar about the grating mother-in-law portrayed in the film. She felt like she could predict what was going to happen from one scene to the next in the film. And she believed the script had similarities to the one she wrote about her own mother-in-law problems. She felt entitled to a piece of the $155 million the film made in worldwide box office.

When the lawsuit was first filed, we had lots of fun making fun of it. Gilbert thinks she's the first to experience an annoying mother-in-law? Gilbert thinks there's something surprising about a Hollywood comedy that felt recycled?

But sadly, most people don't understand the difference between ideas and expression -- and what copyright law really protects. And so, a lot of "idea theft" lawsuits are filed against Hollywood studios.

This one, though, went well above and beyond: Gilbert's lawsuit targeted more than 50 defendants -- basically every executive, big-name star, and company involved in the production and distribution of Monster-in-Law and alleged that the defendants had engaged in a pattern of racketeering activity to copy her work and share the profits.

Gilbert was represented by a range of attorneys during the course of the case, including Willie Gilbert, Randall Garteiser and Lisa D. Angelo.

Not only did Gilbert lose, with the judge finding "vast differences in characters, plot, mood and theme" from her script and the film's script, but her claims were deemed so unworthy and motivated by "bad faith" that the judge last month ordered Gilbert to pay the defendant's legal tab.

The case took two years to litigate and there were 649 docket entries. The 50+ defendants cumulatively spent 4,000 billable hours. It ended up adding up to a judgement that Gilbert should pay $894,983 to the defendants!

This month, she filed an appeal. The tab is still running ...

(Hat tip: Sheldon Toplitt)