Filmmaker Urges Open Road Bankruptcy Judge to Unpause 'Nightcrawler' Copyright Lawsuit

Nightcrawler-Publicity Still-H 2018
Open Road Films (II)/Photofest

A Utah-based indie filmmaker doesn't think Open Road's bankruptcy should delay the trial in his copyright infringement lawsuit over Nightcrawler, according to a Friday filing.

Richard Dutcher in 2015 sued Bold Films, Open Road, NBCUniversal and others, claiming Nightcrawler infringes on his 2007 film called Falling. His film centers on a man who drives around the streets of Los Angeles listening to police scanners so he can record them and sell the tapes, which ultimately leads to him recording a murder in progress.

Dutcher had planned to recast the story and adapt the film for a mass-market release, but he claims the 2014 Jake Gyllenhaal-led movie deprived him of the ability to do so.

Dutcher's claims have survived motions for dismissal and summary judgment. U.S. District Judge Dee Benson in August found sufficient evidence of substantial similarity between the works to allow the case to go to a jury. 

The matter was stayed automatically when Open Road filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in September. 

Dutcher on Friday asked a Delaware bankruptcy judge to lift the stay of his case so it can continue to final judgment or settlement.

"In the present action, relief is sought so that Mr. Dutcher may seek payment from the insurance carrier under the terms of the liability policy held by Open Road and applicable to the claim alleged in the Action," writes attorney Stephen Silverman, arguing that any damages awarded wouldn't affect Open Road's assets or creditors because Dutcher has stipulated to limit his recovery to the available insurance proceeds. "Where the Debtor has liability insurance, relief from the stay is generally proper."

The trial is currently set to begin Dec. 3.