James Franco Wins Lawsuit After NYU Professor Can't Find Him

FILM: James Franco
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James Franco (CAA, James/Levy, Sloane Offer) is in negotiations to star in "The Game," MGM's adaptation of Neil Strauss' best-selling book about picking up women. Brian Koppelman and David Levien are writing and directing.

James Franco isn't that tough a guy to find.

For example, we found him Sunday night at the Tribeca Film Festival. After the premiere of The Director, a film about the Gucci brand which he produced, he took the stage at the SVA Theatre with The Director's director, Christina Voros, whom he met at New York University as a student several years ago.

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The event was marked without drama from one of his other NYU mates -- Jose Angel Santana, a former professor who sued Franco over allegedly "disparaging and inaccurate public statements" that the actor made against Santana after getting a "D" in his class in 2010.

In February, Santana looked to be on the verge of a victory because Franco hadn't responded in court. But two weeks ago, a judge dismissed claims against Franco after Santana's attorneys had trouble locating the defendant to serve him. By Sunday, Franco was able to appear at the festival without any worry.

After Santana submitted a motion for a default judgment in February based upon Franco's failure to show up, the actor's attorneys moved into high gear and attacked the professed "diligence" in serving process on Franco.

How hard is it to tell a celebrity he's being sued?

Apparently, it isn't easy.

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According to court documents from the case, after the lawsuit was filed last September, Santana's attorneys first attempted to serve him at NYU. The university refused to accept service on the actor's behalf.

Santana's attorneys then tried to locate his home and found an address in Los Angeles. According to a filing from Michael Plonsker, one of the actor's attorneys, a process server "threw some court papers on the ground in front of the residence."

The problem was that it was the wrong address.

Santana's attorneys attempted to explain this by pointing to some websites that had listed the address as belonging to the actor. That brought a funny response from Franco's lawyers.

"Plaintiff's attorneys do not indicate that they considered any reliable sources, such as property records," said Jura Zibas, another one of Franco's lawyers, in a court filing. "Gossip blogs are frankly not the most accurate sources upon which to base one's due diligence."

Zibas continued, "It is astounding that plaintiff's attorneys claim that they were unable to find Mr. Franco, a celebrated actor, as well as filmmaker, lecturer and author. The Court is requested to take judicial notice that Mr. Franco has certainly been active in promoting his recent movie, Oz the Great and Powerful, and has made a number of promotional public appearances. Even if the plaintiff may have had difficulty locating where Mr. Franco resides, there has always been an option to deliver the summons and complaint to Mr. Franco's actual place of business."

Franco's attorneys asked the judge to dismiss the defamation lawsuit on the grounds that it didn't have personal jurisdiction over him, and that he was prejudiced by the plaintiff's attorneys' failure to serve him properly and timely.

At a court hearing, the judge apparently agreed. Last week, the court entered a dismissal against Franco for lack of personal jurisdiction. That meant that Franco could show up at the Tribeca Film Festival, where he told the crowd he wanted to debut The Director, without the possibility that someone would try to hurl legal papers at his feet. Yes, that sort of thing  happens from time to time at film and music festivals.

Email: eriq.gardner@thr.com; Twitter: @eriqgardner