'Trouble With the Curve' Suit: Judge

Both sides in the dispute over the authorship of Warner Bros.’ “Trouble with the Curve” are asking a federal judge to grant summary judgment in the case, in which a college-baseball-player turned screenwriter is accusing Warner Bros. and other defendants of a “conspiracy” to cover up the lineage of the pic’s screenplay.

On Friday, attorneys for Ryan A. Brooks, who contend that his idea for a project called “Omaha” was stolen for 2012 Clint Eastwood movie “Trouble with the Curve,”  filed a motion for partial summary judgment, relying heavily on the opinions of three experts who concluded that not only are the two projects “substantially similar” in “both a qualitative and quantitative respect,” but that “these works are in many respects the same story.”

“In fact, all three experts opine that the two scripts share countless identical details and even a shocking degree of grammatical and stylistic identities and sequences,” Brooks’ attorney, Gerald P. Fox, stated in the motion.

Brooks’ suit contends that the credited screenwriter for the movie, Randy Brown, was enlisted as an “imposter” writer to cover for its true author, Don Handfield, a writer-for-hire on “Omaha” scripts. Brooks’ most recent filing points out that the three experts “opine, unequivocally” that Handfield and not Brown is the true author of the “Trouble with the Curve.”

The experts were David Yerkes, professor of English and comparative literature at Columbia; Sheril Antonio, associate dean of the Kanbar Institute of Film & Television at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts’ and Richard Walter, chairman of the UCLA graduate screenwriting program.

Earlier this week, Warner Bros. and a group of other defendants filed their own motion for summary judgment, calling Brooks’ suit “legally and factually without basis.” They cite a”Trouble with the Curve”  script that Brown wrote in the 1990s, starting while he was in a screenwriting class at UCLA, and one that sold to The Bubble Factory in 1997. That would predate Brooks’ “Omaha” project.

The studio also submitted copies of the script, letters promoting it and a 1997 coverage report.

“This extensive and overwhelming evidence of prior creation — which refutes any claim of copying under the well-established case law — cannot reasonably be disputed and shows that plaintiffs’ claims of copying are without merit and should be dismissed now, with prejudice,” Warner Bros.’ attorney, Matthew T. Kline of O’Melveny & Myers, wrote in the filing.

The studio also dismisses Brooks’ legal team’s claim that the Brown script and other evidence of prior creation was a “fraud,” calling the claim “fanciful, conclusory, and legally irrelevant.”

Their filing also cited declarations from such figures as Neil Landau, Brown’s former screenwriting professor; Gerald Bocaccio, a former Bubble Factory executive who now teaches at New York University; and Scott Cooper, a forensics expert.

U.S. District Judge Dale S. Fischer has scheduled a hearing for Feb. 24.

Other defendants in the suit include Brown, Malpaso Co., director Robert Lorenz and producer Michele Weisler. Clint Eastwood, the movie’s star, is not named.

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