The more than $10 million breach of contract lawsuit just filed over the 2018 Melissa McCarthy starrer Life of the Party may prove a party pooper for the Ghostbusters actress, Warner Bros, director Ben Falcone, the Gersh Agency, agent Sean Barclay, and Brett Ratner and his RatPac banner.
“Plaintiff formally pitched the Concepts to the Gersh Defendants in 2014, and was informed that the Concepts had significant commercial likelihood of success,” a jury-seeking suit filed Wednesday in Los Angeles Superior Court says. “At this meeting, the script, ideas, story and treatment referred to herein were discussed and presented to the Gersh Defendants, and details were further discussed at length,” adds the five-claim complaint (read it here).
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Produced by New Line, which is also named as a defendant, and distributed by Warner Bros, the feature comedy was released in May 2018 and went on to garner a global box office of around $66 million. The film also snagged a People’s Choice Award for McCarthy that year. Providing a breakdown rare in such cases, plaintiff Eva Kowalski is now claiming in her suit that the collection of Hollywood heavyweights had a “secret agreement” to rip off the whole thing from her WGA-registered treatment and script College Mom.
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Not only does the producer of primarily shorts want a payout of “not less than $10,000,000,” but the Lindemann Law Firm-represented Kowalski also is seeking an injunction against the movie, which was penned by McCarthy and Falcone. Kowalski is also seeking “an order that Defendants destroy all materials of every nature and kind in their possession, custody or control that are based on Plaintiff’s Concepts.”
“Defendants breached the implied-in-fact contract by, among other actions, misappropriating, using, and exploiting Plaintiff’s Concepts and by disclosing Plaintiff’s Concepts, and producing the hit move Life of the Party, repackaged as Defendants’ own project without Plaintiff’s permission and/or without compensating Plaintiff in the form of payments, credit and other considerations to Plaintiff,” the 13-page plus attachments complaint reads.
“The McCarthy Defendants knew that the interference was certain or substantially certain to occur as a result of its actions,” it adds of the CAA-repped McCarthy, who was also an executive producer on the movie. “The McCarthy Defendants wanted and intended to interfere with the contracts between Plaintiff and the Gersh Defendants, because they would make more money by trampling on Plaintiff’s rights then including her and compensating her.”
Reps for McCarthy and Falcone did not respond to request for comment. Warner Bros declined comment on the complaint. Reps for Gersh as well as reps for Ratner and RatPac also did not respond to requests for comment. In that context, it should be noted that neither Ratner nor RatPac were producers on Life of the Party and actually don’t seem to have had any involvement whatsoever with the movie.
It should also be noted that Kowalski says she was made aware of the alleged breach when Life of the Party premiered on May 10, 2018 – though it has taken nearly two and a half years for her to take legal action.
While McCarthy is a beloved and respected member of the Tinseltown community, there is no arguing that Hollywood has a long history of sticky fingers. Having said that, whether the allegation that the idea for the movie really came from Kowalski via Gersh and Ratner will be determined by a judge and then perhaps a jury. However, if similar past cases are any indication, Los Angeles Superior Court judges rarely let these cases move ahead very far. They tend to put such projects side-by-side and, in the spotlight, often determine that comparisons at best come down to general themes and plot devises – and that’s no ripoff under the law.
We’ll see if that’s true of Life of the Party or not.
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