Pic backer gets $3.4 mil settlement

Fraud suit claimed misrepresentation in 'Ferry' pic deal

This article was corrected on April 10, 2000, to note that Barab, Kline & Coate were also counsel of record in connection with Alan James’ lawsuit against Greg Bernstein and Rosenfeld, Meyer & Susman.

“Lakeboat” backer Alan James has agreed to $3.4 million in a settlement against his former law firm, Rosenfeld, Meyer & Susman, after claiming that the firm fraudulently induced him into financing independent film “Morgan’s Ferry.”

Among the firm’s transgressions, James alleged, were misrepresenting the project’s financials and failing to mention that not only was another client of the firm a producer on the picture but that his own attorney, Greg Bernstein, was an exec producer.

The as-yet-unreleased “Morgan’s Ferry,” starring Billy Zane and Kelly McGillis, was a film that Bernstein and client Dan Levin had been trying to set up for six years, according to plaintiff’s attorney Henry Gradstein of Gradstein, Luskin & Van Dalsem.

“Lakeboat,” the film of David Mamet’s play, will open the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival next week.

‘Dog’ days

Upon James’s request in February 1997, Bernstein and the Rosenfeld firm studied and rejected the idea of investing in “A Dog of Flanders.” James then asked Bernstein to seek a more suitable production investment and in July 1997, Bernstein recommended “Morgan’s Ferry.” According to the suit, however, Bernstein misrepresented or concealed a number of key facts, including the picture’s actual budget and sales projections.

Until Bernstein took the stand, his defense was that he never represented James. Evidence to the contrary included an engagement letter stating that James was a firm client.

The Rosenfeld firm released a statement that said: “The actions (James) took against one of our attorneys have been resolved and we believe that the financial settlement agreed to is in the best interests of all parties.”

Gradstein represented James in association with partner Bruce Van Dalsem.

The firm lost another suit in October when they sued author Frank Sanello. Sharon Stone left Rosenfeld after reading an unflattering statement attributed to one of the firm’s attorneys that was published in “Naked Instinct: The Unauthorized Biography of Sharon Stone.”

The firm sued the book’s author, Sanello, seeking damages in excess of $3 million and asserting claims of defamation, invasion of privacy and intentional interference with an economic relationship. A jury found in favor of Sanello.

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