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Baer v. Chase
United States District Court for the District of New Jersey
2007 WL 1237850 (2007)
Television writer David Chase (defendant) created, directed, and produced The Sopranos. While developing the mob-boss-in-therapy idea, Chase met former New Jersey prosecutor Robert Baer (plaintiff). Baer said Chase should base the story on the northern New Jersey mob, apparently unaware Chase had worked on similar stories before. Chase pitched the idea, and Fox Broadcasting agreed to fund a pilot. Chase offered to pay Baer up front for help researching the idea, but Baer asked to be paid the true value of his services once the show succeeded. Chase took a three-day trip to New Jersey, where Baer arranged meetings with a homicide detective, an organized-crime expert, and an Italian restaurant waiter who told great stories. The detective drove Baer and Chase around to local landmarks and locations with mob significance. Chase wrote the pilot script and sent it to Baer, who provided comments 14 months later. The show was a smash hit, but Chase never paid Baer. Baer sued Chase on multiple grounds. The trial court granted summary judgment for Chase because the two never had a written contract, and all the ideas and information provided were either already public or came from Baer’s associates. Baer appealed. The appellate court reversed only as to Baer’s quasi-contract claim for restitution for benefits conferred without compensation. Chase moved to limit discovery to the value of Baer’s services as a location scout, researcher, and consultant, and not the value of Baer’s ideas, as the courts had already found those ideas either unoriginal or from other people. Baer countered that the unique combination of public information he collected nonetheless resulted in ideas that were novel to and benefited Chase.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Pisano, J.)
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