A state appellate court panel ruled Monday that a Superior Court judge erred when he denied a motion by attorneys for the producers of “American Hustle” to dismiss a scientist’s $1 million defamation lawsuit.
Paul Brodeur’s October 2014 suit against Atlas Entertainment Inc., Annapurna Pictures and Columbia Pictures Industries Inc. concerned a portion of the script in which Jennifer Lawrence’s character in the film attributes inaccurate claims about microwave ovens to the scientist.
In his April 2015 ruling, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Terry Green rejected claims by the moviemakers’ attorney, Louis P. Petrich, that the lawsuit infringed on the producers’ free speech under a California law barring suits that inhibit public participation. The judge ruled that Brodeur, a real- life microwaves expert, was not a public figure and that he had a likelihood of prevailing on the defamation claim.
Brodeur alleged the film defamed him in a scene in which Lawrence’s character, arguing with on-screen husband Christian Bale, gives him an article by Brodeur she says proves that microwaves sap nutrients from food.
The producers’ legal team maintained the lawsuit should have been dismissed because Lawrence portrayed a character, Rosalyn Rosenfield, who was not of sound mind.
In a unanimous 17-page opinion written by Justice Elizabeth Grimes, a three-justice panel of the 2nd District Court of Appeal reversed Green’s ruling and directed him to enter an order dismissing the case.
“The general tenor of ‘American Hustle,’ the entirely farcical nature of the science oven scene and the ditzy nature of the character uttering the allegedly defamatory statement all indicate that an audience would not expect anything Rosalyn says to reflect objective fact,” Grimes wrote.
Grimes said the tone of “American Hustle” was clear.
“‘American Hustle’ is, after all, a farce,” Grimes wrote. “The stage was set at the beginning of the film. The character who utters the allegedly defamatory statement is portrayed throughout the movie as ‘slightly unhinged’ and ‘a font of misinformation.”‘
— Wire reports