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It’s an open question whether the boxoffice take of last year’s hit “Borat” was harmed or helped by all the press surrounding the lawsuits filed against 20th Century Fox by unwitting participants in the film. But Fox’s lawyers have been collecting a steady revenue stream lately — attorneys fees from those who unsuccessfully sued for fraud and invasion of privacy. In an award under California’s free-speech anti-SLAPP law, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Joseph S. Biderman earlier this month ordered a Virginia man to fork out $43,775 to the “Borat” defense team from Leopold, Petrich & Smith in Century City.
The plaintiff, identified only as John Doe 3, was one of the spectators at a rodeo where Borat Sagdiyev, played by Sacha Baron Cohen, is invited to sing the Kazakh national anthem. He alleged the rodeo scene falsely portrayed him as “uneducated, sexist, racist and bigoted,” but Biderman declared the case a SLAPP suit in June. That ruling effectively ended the case on free speech grounds and made the defense eligible for an attorney fee award, which Biderman granted after rejecting the plaintiff’s “argument that the Court should not award fees against him due to his financial condition.” The judge tacked on another $1,014 for costs.
Several other “Borat” cases are pending. But in the most high-profile suit, the Leopold Petrich firm, led by Borat specialist (and THR Power Lawyer) Louis Petrich, collected a stipulated award of $50,000 in fees and costs from the two South Carolina frat brothers depicted making racist and sexist comments in the mockumentary.
Olivier Taillieu of Zuber & Taillieu in Beverly Hills represented both the frat boys and the rodeo fan.
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