Date: 2nd April 2003

Lawyer sues over Latifah film

A New York lawyer who says she had the original idea for box office hit Bringing Down the House (2003) has filed a $15m (9.6m) lawsuit against Queen Latifah and the film's other producers.
Marie Flaherty says the family comedy copies Amoral Dilemma, a screenplay she wrote several years ago about a lawyer who meets a prisoner on the internet.

Bringing Down the House, starring Chicago star Latifah and Steve Martin, tells of a prisoner who meets a lawyer in a chat room and makes her way into his life in the hope that he can exonerate her.

It is the number two film at the US box office, having taken $12.5m (8m) at the weekend and topped the charts for the previous three week.

In a lawsuit filed on Friday in Manhattan federal court, Ms Flaherty set out her case alleging copyright infringement.

She says that Boston lawyer George N Tobia Jr agreed to represent her in 1999 as she tried to sell Amoral Dilemma.

A few months later, she says, Mr Tobia called her to say that he and a family friend - screenwriter Jason Filardi - had sold a script called which eventually became Bringing Down the House (2003).

Ms Flaherty says she confronted Mr Tobia about the similarities, and he told her repeatedly that Mr Filardi's script was a comedy, while hers was a drama.

Named as defendants in the lawsuit are Mr Tobia, Mr Filardi and the movie's producers, including Latifah - real name Dana Owens.

Hyde Park Entertainment, which produced the film, and Walt Disney Co, which distributed it, are listed as co-defendants.

Mr Tobia was not available for comment, and Queen Latifah's spokeswoman declined to comment.

Ms Flaherty intends to represent herself in court.

Source: Press Release