Judge Allows Fraud Lawsuit Over 'Good Kill' Credit Snub

Good Kill Still - H 2014
Courtesy of Toronto International Film Festival

Good Kill Still - H 2014

Voltage Pictures and Clear Skies Nevada have failed to shoot down an investor's lawsuit over the credits to Good Kill, a film about drone warfare starring Ethan Hawke and January Jones.

Mark Amin of Sobini Films filed claims in May and alleged he was promised "gold standard" treatment, but instead had to settle for his name as a producer "buried... in a greatly inferior position at the bottom of a card headed by two of the defendants' executives."

In response, the defendants attempted a two-pronged strategy to have the lawsuit cut down.

First, Voltage brought a special motion to strike the claims based on California's anti-SLAPP statute, which provides recourse for defendants who are dragged into litigation based on First Amendment protected activity. But defendants are only able to take advantage of the SLAPP statute if the objectionable activity concerns a matter of widespread public interest, and in this case, Los Angeles Superior Court judge Susan Bryant-Deason rules a single card producer credit doesn't qualify.

Voltage also tried a demurrer to Amin's various causes of action, objecting they weren't sufficiently pled.

The defendants argued that Amin's breach of contract claim failed because the investor hadn't provided written notice of a faulty credit as required by a term sheet. Amin responded that that he was promised that the credits would be corrected before the film was released and that such a representation acted as a waiver to his obligation to provide written notice.

The defendants also argued that claims of fraud and breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing were "superfluous," that they merely restated the claim that the investor's contract on Good Kill was violated. The film companies also attempted to poke holes in Amin's attempt to win at least $500,000 in damages under the "economic loss rule," arguing that tort recovery under the rule was limited to circumstances like physical injury or wrongful discharges in violation of fundamental public policy — not a credit snub.

Without much commentary, the judge overruled the objections at a hearing two weeks ago.

On Tuesday, Voltage filed a notice of appeal.

Normally, a defendant would have to get a judge's permission for an appeal during the course of a legal proceeding, but California's SLAPP statute provides an automatic right to one. As such, the litigation will be paused pending a higher authority's determination on whether movie credits qualify as statements of public interest.

Good Kill was released theatrically by IFC Films in May to largely disinterested ticket buyers.

Sobini Films is represented by attorney Alan Rader while the defendants are being handled by attorney Harvey Saferstein.