Judge Weighs Whether to Dismiss 'Trouble

A federal judge said that she was inclined to dismiss a screenwriter’s claim that Warner Bros.’ “Trouble with the Curve” was ripped off from his idea and that Warner Bros. and other defendants engaged in a “conspiracy” to cover up the project’s lineage.

U.S. District Court Judge Dale S. Fischer said that she would issue a final summary judgment ruling in the copyright infringement case.

Warner Bros. and the credited screenwriter, Randy Brown, contend that there is ample evidence to show that he came up with the idea well before Ryan A. Brooks, the plaintiff, hatched a project called “Omaha.” 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.

Fischer said that after watching the movie and reading scripts, she concluded that the projects lacked substantial similarity.

“These, in my view, are two very different stories,” Fischer said, adding that “one just gets a different sense of what these two stories are about.”

Brooks’ attorney, Gerard Fox, said in a statement, “We respect the authority of the court and will weigh our options once the Judge has issued her decision.”

While idea theft suits are commonplace in Hollywood, this one has been particularly acrimonious.

Through his attorney, Brooks had challenged the studio’s effort to dismiss the litigation, claiming that the floppy disks on which Brown stored his scripts were “manipulated” to present “inaccurate information about the date of creation.” He also claimed that notebooks were doctored to bolster the claim that Brown wrote the script. He’s brought in forensic experts to prove their case, although the studio has challenged their veracity. One dispute has been over the notebooks and whether the manufacturer made that brand in the early 1990s.

Brooks’ legal team contends that a chain of defendants helped cover up the real authorship of the movie, in which Brown was merely an “impostor” with insufficient expertise in baseball to be able to create such a project. They claim that Brown’s script copies plot, characters and settings from “Omaha.” They point to Don Handfield, Brooks’ onetime collaborator, who they say had the same agent as Brown, as a conduit for secretly writing “Trouble With the Curve.” Handfield’s legal rep has denied the insinuation.

Warner Bros., in fact, has called Fox’s claims “reckless.”

The movie was not a hit at the box office, grossing about $49 million.

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