James Cameron and Fox today did not get their request for a total dismissal of Bryant Moore’s $2.5 billion lawsuit claiming that Avatar was stolen from his scripts. The defendants did get some legal traction when federal Judge Roger W. Titus granted a motion Monday to dismiss the breach of implied contract claim in Moore’s 2011 suit. However, he did not dismiss Moore’s copyright claims in the hearing in the Southern District of Maryland over the 3D blockbuster. The ruling means the jury trial-requested case will go forward, with discovery to occur next during the next four to six months.
Moore sued the director, his Lightstorm Entertainment and Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation on December 19, 2011. The writer claimed that copies of his Aquatica and Descendants: The Pollination screenplays made their way to Cameron in 1993 and 1994 through Lightstorm production assistants. Though Moore says he was eventually told the company did not accept the submissions, he found “striking substantial similarities” between his scripts and 2009’s Avatar. Cameron has said in court filings that he had Avatar mapped out in a detailed scriptment before any such materials by Moore were submitted to his company. Moore is seeking $1.5 billion in profits and another $1 billion in punitive damages.
In their motion to dismiss filed last September, Lightstorm’s lawyers state the Moore’s claims “fail because there is no substantial similarity between Defendants’ motion picture Avatar and either of Plaintiff’s scripts and because Plaintiff failed to plead the existence of any implied-in-fact contract between Plaintiff and any Defendant.”
This is the third such Avatar suit Cameron has seen have its day in court in the past few months — though the last two ended in his favor. In September of last year, Cameron and Fox prevailed over a copyright infringement suit from writer Elijah Schkeiban, who claimed Avatar was ripped off from his novel and subsequent film script Bats And Butterflies. In January, the director won a summary judgment in a suit from Gerald Morawski, who also accused Cameron of ripping off his ideas to come up with the movie.
The defendants in the Moore suit are represented by Gregory O Olaniran, John Matthew Williams and Robert Rotstein of the Washington DC office of Mitchell Silberberg and Knupp. Moore is represented by Donald Melvin Temple of DC’s Temple Law Offices.