'The Purge' Writer Must Produce Early Script Drafts in Idea Theft Suit

'The Purge'

In June, The Purge opened to $34.1 million in the U.S., a new record opening for an R-rated horror movie. The film, about a society where all crime is legal one night a year, went on to earn $89.3 million worldwide, and a sequel is already in the works. The film's new record, however, would not hold as another horror pic came along and wiped it out less than a month later.

The Purge writer-director James DeMonaco doesn't have to turn over any more emails to address allegations of evidence tampering in a lawsuit from a writer who claims he stole the story for the 2013 horror film — but he does have to provide 20 Final Draft files related to early versions of the script.

Douglas Jordan-Benel sued in 2015, claiming The Purge derives from his screenplay called Settler's Day. During discovery, Jordan-Benel's representatives found discrepancies in documents produced by DeMonaco that they suspected meant he changed timestamps on his emails to show he created the work first.

In September of this year, U.S. District Judge Michael Wilner ordered defendants to turn over some of those items in their original format, finding metadata attached to the emails could resolve "the issues of alleged fakery." 

Jordan-Benel then asked for several thousand more electronic records, claiming he had "compelling evidence" that files were manipulated. DeMonaco's lawyers fought the request, calling it "abusive discovery gamesmanship."

On Monday, Wilner largely sided with the defendants. He won't make them turn over anymore emails in native format, but he will allow Jordan-Benel to get his hands on the original files of the screenplay draft.

"If further technical review of the most suspicious e-mails on Plaintiff's wish list — remember that the Court let Plaintiff pick the e-mails to be analyzed — then analysis of less suspicious (or, more fairly, non-suspicious) e-mails is less likely to lead to valuable results," finds the judge.

As for the screenplay draft, Wilner finds that any alleged formatting discrepancies could be attributed to the fact that the computer on which DeMonaco wrote it crashed in 2009 and he then had to download them from an AOL email account and transfer them to his lawyers, which may have involved saving files as pdfs. But, just to be safe, he found limited discovery isn't unreasonable. 

Read the full order, below.