Psenicska v. Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp.
United States District Court for the Southern District of New York
2008 WL 4185752 (2008)
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation (Fox) (defendant) developed and produced the film BORAT: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. The plot of the movie involved the incredibly offensive actions of a fictional character played by Sacha Baron Cohen (defendant), as well as the strange and offensive reactions of unknowing members of the American public to Cohen’s character. Michael Psenicska, Cindy Streit, Sarah Moseley, Ben McKinnon, Michael Jared, Lynn Jared, and Katie Martin (plaintiffs) all participated in the filming of the movie and appeared in the movie. Psenicska owned a driving school and was approached by Todd Schulman (defendant) to participate in a documentary about the integration of foreign people into the American way of life. Psenicska agreed to participate and was asked to teach a driving class to a foreign citizen. Just before filming, Psenicska was asked to sign a standard consent agreement in exchange for $500. Streit was asked by Schulman to teach an etiquette-training class and arrange a dinner party for a Belarus dignitary. The other guests at the dinner party were Moseley, McKinnon, and the Jareds. Just before filming, all of the participants were asked to sign the standard consent agreement. Martin owned an etiquette-training business and was asked to provide etiquette training to a foreign reporter. Martin was also presented with the standard consent agreement just before filming. Martin was given $350 for participation in the film. In each instance of filming, Cohen appeared in character and acted offensively. The reactions of each of the plaintiffs were captured on film. The standard consent agreement signed by each plaintiff specifically waived all claims related to participation in the film, including any fraud claims based on alleged deception or surprise about the movie or the agreement. The agreement also stated that the signing participant was not relying on any representations about the nature of the movie or the identity of any other participant in the movie. Each of the plaintiffs sued Fox, Schulman, and Cohen for damages related to their appearances in the movie. Fox, Schulman, and Cohen moved to dismiss the claims based on the standard consent agreement.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Preska, J.)
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