|JOHN H. LAVELY, JR
MARTIN D. SINGER
MICHAEL J FLONSKER
BRIAN G. WOLF
LYNDA B. GOLDMAN
EDWARD M. KUBEC
B. PAUL KATRINAK
MICHAEL D. HOLTZ
MICHAEL T. HARRISON
S. MICHAEL KERNAN
CHARLES J HARDER
GRANT P. MICHAELSON
EVEN N. SPIEGEL
ATTORNEYS AT LAW
2049 CENTURY PARK EAST
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA 90067-2906
PAUL N. SORREL
|VIA TELECOPIER (516) 803-5108
AND U.S. MAIL
Independent Film Channel
VIA TELECOPIER (516) 803-5108
Mr. John Pierson
Re: Bruce Willis v. The Independent Film Channel: John Pierson
Dear Messrs. Sapan and Pierson and Ms. Door:
Our office is litigation counsel for Bruce Willlis and I am writing with respect to the substantial claims for defamation, false light invasion of privacy, and related claims that my client has against you. I received a phone call from a publication informing me of certain statements about Mr. Willis that you intend to broadcast on a segment on your television series "Split Screen" (herein "Segment"). We are aware that the statements that you intent to broadcast were elicited through harassment and antagonism by certain "film makers" (as they described themselves) who made numerous defamatory statements about our client to various residents of Hailey, Idaho in an effort to evoke negative statements about Mr. Willis. In particular, various residents had complained to my client, his friends and his wife about this film crew being very antagonistic to residents unless they would say something negative about Bruce Willis or Demi Moore. I was also informed that the so-called "film makers" were harassing several residents, especially those who were not willing to make negative statements about our client. In addition, they were asking leading questions requesting that negative comments be made about our client.
When I became aware of this conduct, I contacted the purported "film maker," who refused to give me his real name. The individual also refused to identify whom he worked for. I advised him that he should cease and desist from engaging in harassing conduct and making defamatory statements about our client. It was evident, however, that all he really wanted to do was tape my conversation with him. Now, we are aware that the purported "film maker" has been working for you, and that you intend to broadcast defamatory statements about our cleint in a Segment on Split Screen.
I have only been told limited information about what appears on the Segment. However, based on what I have thus far learned, it is clear that the Segment will consist of numerous false and defamatory statements about Mr. Willis, given by unreliable and/or biased sources, and/or by persons who were outrageously provoked into making disingenuous negative statements about my client.
In particular, I was told that there was an individual who claimed he installed air conditioning and Bruce Willis "stiffed" him for $100,000. We presume that you spoke to someone in the "Lovey" family, who is a proprietor of Eagle Company. You should be well aware that Eagle Company never sued my client, but rather, Eagle Company sued Valley Entertainment. Mr Willis was never personally sued in that dispute, nor was there ever any claim that he owed money to the plaintiff. Furthermore, Eagle lost that action, and the Court held that it was a frivolous lawsuit. Eagle Company had sued Valley Entertainment for $54,000 and then subsequently changed their claim for $120,000. Not only did Valley Entertainment win the lawsuit against Eagle Company proving that the claims that any monies were owed to it was absolutely false, in addition to Court concluding that Eagle's claims were "frivolous," the Court also awarded Valley Entertainment money on its counter-claim against Eagle, and ordered Eagle to pay Valley Entertainment's legal fees. The person(s) from whom you obtained the statements regarding this dispute were clearly disgruntled losers in a lawsuit, and are thus unreliable sources, and should you repeat their false and defamatory statements, you do so at your peril. Although a party is privileged to file a lawsuit, you are not privileged to repeat their false and defamatory statements regarding the litigation.
My cleint has been a resident of Idaho for many years. Contrary to the information that we are informed you intend to broadcast, Mr. Willis has only been named as a party in one lawsuit in Idaho, notwithstanding the numerous business dealings Mr. Willis has undertaken in Idaho (that one case in which he was named was settled; the plaintiff's claims had been only approximately $8,000). Furthermore, there have been only a few lawsuits filed against Valley Entertainment and in each situation Valley Entertainment has prevailed.
There are obviously disgruntled individuals who are motivated to make derogatory and defamatory statements about our client. In turn, you and your so-called "film makers" have sought out such persons and have intentionally provoked negative reactions from people in your quest to conjure up a negative story for the Segment. For example, we are informed that persons may have made statements to the effect that Mr. Willis' "goon" employees engaged in certain inappropriate conduct. Be advised that the referenced security personnel are not employees of Mr. Willis and, moreover, any conduct undertaken by them was in response to the grossly unprofessional, antagonistic and provocative conduct of your purported "film makers," which included the videotaping of license plates in violation of the privacy rights of the people harassed in that manner. The obvious goal of the "film makers" in that regard was to provoke altercations in an effort to conjure up a negative story about my client. Indeed, the fact that you and the "film makers" were not and are not interested in an accurate and truthful story is eveidenced by the fact that they never contacted my client or his representatives for any comment. Instead, you and your "film makers" deigned to rely upon patently unreliable and biased sources for false information.
Malice can be proven in a libel case by evidence of the publisher's failure to do an investigation, by fabricating information, by falsely attributing quotes, by the publisher's reliance on sources known to be unreliable, by reliance on sources known to be biased against the plaintiff, by reliance on persons who are not in a position to know the things they speak of, and by reliance on persons who have demonstrated anger and hostility to the plaintiff, among other factors. St. Amant v. Thompson, 390 U.S. 727, 88 S. Ct. 1323 (1968); Curtis Publishing Company v. Butts, 388 U.S. 130, 87 S.Ct. 1975, 18 L.Ed.2d 1094 (1967); Readers Digest Assn., Inc. v. Superior Court, 37 Cal.3d 244, 208 Cal.Rptr. 137, 690 P.2d 610 (1984); Widener v. Pacific Gas and Electric Company, 75 Cal.App.3d 415, 436, 142 Cal.Rptr. 304 (1977); Fisher v. Larson, 138 Cal.App.3d 627, 640, 188 Cal.Rptr. 216 (1982); Burns v. McGraw-Hill Broadcasting Company, Inc., 659 P.2d 1351, 1361-62 (Colo. 1983); Pep v. Newsweek, 553 F.Supp. 1000, 1002 (S.D.N.Y. 1983) We are quite confident that we will be able to establish malice should you proceed to broadcast the Segment, inasmuch as the sources were biased, unreliable, and/or antagonized by the "film makers" so that they would make negative statements about my client.
Obviously, we do no(sp) know the nature of all the statements that you plan to include in the Segment and therefore cannot comment on each of them specifically at this time. However, it is clear that based on the transparent agenda of the purported "film makers" - pursuant to which they were just looking to prompt people to make negative statements, and were upset when people would give positive statements about our client - that your broadcast is nothing more than a "hatchet job." Be advised that our client has authorized our law firm to file a lawsuit for defamation against everyone involved if the Segment is broadcast including defamatory statements about him. Mr. Willis has filed several lawsuits for defamation in the past and has either obtained judgements or obtained substantial settlements in all of his lawsuits for defamation. This is not an idle threat. If you broadcast the segment containing defamatory information about our client, be assured that you will be sued.
Govern yourself accordingly.
Nothing contained herein is intended as, nor should it be deemed to constitute, a waiver or relinquishment of any of my client's rights or remedies, whether legal or equitable, all of which are hereby expressly reserved.
MARTIN D. SINGER
© 1997-1999 Grainy Pictures, Inc.