2:18pm PT by Ashley Cullins
Warner Bros. Haunts Author With Counterclaims in 'The Conjuring' Legal Fight
Warner Bros. isn't spooked after a Virginia federal judge last week declined to dismiss the $900 million lawsuit over the Conjuring franchise.
The haunting films, purportedly based on the real-life exploits of ghost hunters Ed and Lorraine Warren, have been fraught with litigation over the years. Gerald Brittle, the author of The Demonologist and who claims to have all rights in the Warrens' life work and case files, filed this big-ticket suit against Warners and New Line Productions in March.
New Line on Tuesday fired back with fraud and conspiracy counterclaims, alleging that it has the lawful right to create films based on the Warrens.
"For years, Brittle and his cohort, [producer] Tony DeRosa-Grund, have conspired to strip New Line of these rights, constantly changing positions and concocting new theories with complete disregard for the truth," writes attorney Benjamin Rottenborn in the filing, which is posted in full below.
The studio argues that prior to this lawsuit, both Brittle and DeRosa-Grund claimed the latter owned the right to make movies based on the case files in question and the author swore under oath that his book wasn't related to The Conjuring.
"Brittle’s assertions (and others like them) affirmatively misled New Line, as Brittle now takes the exact opposite positions in this litigation," writes Rottenborn. "Indeed, after a JAMS ruling between New Line and DeRosa-Grund — which held, among other things, that New Line 'owns all right, title and interest to the approximately 8000 Case Files'; that '[a]ny rights acquired by DeRosa-Grund with respect to the Demonologist Option are the sole property of New Line;' and that '[a]ny rights acquired by DeRosa-Grund under any agreements with third parties related to the "Property"… are the sole property of New Line' — Brittle now switches positions and claims that he alone owns them and that The Conjuring pictures infringe The Demonologist."
While New Line asserts that no one holds the exclusive right to tell stories based on historical facts, it also argues that it doesn't need Brittle's permission because it negotiated the rights directly with Lorraine Warren. Further, the studio claims it was willing to pay Brittle $150,000 to option his book but, instead, he chose to mislead them.
The studio is suing both Brittle and DeRosa-Grund in arbitration, and believes that is the proper venue for this dispute, but argues it had no choice but to file counterclaims in open court because Brittle indicated he's going to challenge that jurisdiction and the court declined to stay this case pending that arbitration.
New Line is suing Brittle for tortious interference, aiding and abetting fraud, civil conspiracy and statutory business conspiracy.