1:22pm PT by Eriq Gardner
Lee Daniels Compares Damon Dash's Investment Lawsuit to 'Shell Game'
Lee Daniels has delivered a scathing rebuttal to Roc-A-Fella Records co-founder Damon Dash's lawsuit claiming millions of dollars and credits on The Butler, Precious, and the upcoming Fox drama, Empire. The film director says that Dash's claim is an "unintelligible, self-contradicting shell game."
Dash detailed his argument why he's entitled to substantial rewards including co-ownership on Daniels' works in September.
According to the hip-hop mogul, it flows from the $2 million that Dash invested in Daniels' The Woodsman, the 2004 film starring Kevin Bacon. Dash claims he never got back his money and then was convinced to roll-over what was due onto Lee's subsequent projects. Dash also alleges he worked hard to make Daniels a success, convincing celebrities like Kanye West to perform in promotional support of films and reassuring other stars like Mariah Carey to back Lee after the 2008 film Tennessee didn't perform that well.
Now, Daniels has brought a motion for a more definite statement about what exactly Dash is disputing.
The film director, through his attorney James Sammataro, tells the judge that Dash didn't attach his agreement for The Woodsman, cites no provisions in the contract, makes "opaque references" to oral agreements — adding up to an "unintelligible jumble of promises and assurances."
Daniels points to contradictions. For example, how can Dash claim Daniels owes $2 million for breaching the Woodsman agreement while at the same time acknowledging that he decided to forgo the right to recoup that investment?
Plus, Daniels points to the actual Woodsman agreement, which Dash didn't provide — only cited.
"The gravamen of the claim is that Daniels personally guaranteed Plaintiff’s investment in the motion picture business so that Plaintiff would never realize a loss," says Daniels' court papers. "There is no personal guarantee. To the contrary, entitled 'Risk of Investment,' Paragraph 13.7 of the agreement – in all caps and bolded language – expressly warns that Plaintiff’s investment was subject to all of the normal risks associated with an inherently risky film venture."
Daniels says that even if he made a prior, oral promise to personally guarantee the investment, this has no legal force given the later written agreement and the mandates contained.
It's enough that Daniels is even hinting at going after Dash's lawyer for even filing the lawsuit:
"The Woodsman Agreement raises considerable questions as to the plausibility of the Complaint – including whether it is objectionably frivolous and, therefore, sanctionable. Consequently, before the Defendants and this Court are forced to expend considerable time, resources and energy on this matter, the Court should exercise its inherent authority and require the Plaintiff to specifically articulate the basis for its claim."