Author Tess Gerritsen says she is giving up her legal fight against Warner Bros. and New Line, after a federal judge twice dismissed her lawsuit claiming that “Gravity” was a ripoff of her novel of the same title.
On her blog, Gerritsen wrote that the judge’s recent ruling “leaves absolutely no remedy for a writer in my situation. Based on the court’s most recent decision, in which it went so far as to make the extraordinary statement that it finds no inequity in this situation, I have no faith in the system or that my case will ever be heard by a jury.
She added, “The brutal financial and emotional costs of continuing the fight for years to come, against adversaries who have unlimited resources and are willing to use them against me, and the unlikelihood that we will ever be allowed in this courtroom to present our evidence, have made me decide to end my efforts.”
U.S. District Judge Margaret Morrow dismissed the lawsuit in January but invited Gerritsen’s legal team to file an amendment complaint.
Morrow again dismissed Gerritsen’s lawsuit earlier this month, concluding that she had “failed adequately to allege breach of contract and breach of guaranty claims against defendants on a direct liability theory. The complaint similarly does not allege plausible claims against WB on successor-in-interest, alter ego, and agency liability theory.”
The case was unusual in that it was not a copyright case, but one for breach of contract.
In her suit, Gerritsen said in 1999 she had sold the rights to her novel “Gravity” to Katja, a shell company for New Line.
Like the movie, Gerritsen’s novel “Gravity,” also published in 1999, features a female medical doctor/astronaut who is stranded alone on a space station after the rest of the crew is killed in a series of disasters.
Gerritsen contended that the terms of her sale of her novel “Gravity” to Katja called for her to receive a production bonus of $500,000, 2.5% of the “defined net proceeds” from the movie, and screen credit. She was paid $1 million when Katja purchased motion picture rights in March 1999, just months before the book was published. Her suit claims that director Alfonso Cuaron was attached to the screen adaptation, but she was not told of it at the time.
Some time after 2002, the suit claims, Cuaron and his son, Jonas, wrote a screenplay called “Gravity.” She claimed that Warner Bros., the studio behind “Gravity,” became owner of the feature rights to her book after it took control of New Line in 2008, and owed her screen credit and a percentage of the net proceeds.
But Morrow concluded that she had not shown that when Warner Bros. took over New Line in 2008, they assumed liabilities for their contract with her.
“Despite my legal team’s best efforts to demonstrate unity of interest between Warner Bros. and its subsidiary New Line, the court has ruled twice that Warner Bros. need not honor and is not responsible for New Line’s contractual obligations to me,” Gerritsen wrote. “The court also dismissed my Breach of Continuing Guaranty claim against New Line.
“We were not given the opportunity to present our arguments in person. We were not allowed to go to discovery, so we have no access to corporate documents which might shed light on the relationship between Warner Bros. and New Line.”
She thanked her attorneys, Glen Kulik, Natalie Mutz and Patricia Brum of Kulik Gottesman & Siegel, and said that they were willing to continue to press the case, but “the decision is mine alone.”
She wrote, “In this era of endless studio mergers and acquisitions, how can we writers protect ourselves from those who purchase our intellectual property rights and make promises but later voice no objection when their parent companies or affiliates take control and circumvent those promises? I’m afraid the answer from this court is clear: we cannot.”