Sarver v. Chartier, No. 11-56986 (9th Cir. 2016)Annotate this Case
Plaintiff Jeffrey Sarver filed suit against defendants, contending that Will James, the main character in the Oscar-winning film "The Hurt Locker," is based on his life and experiences and that he did not consent to such use and that several scenes in the film falsely portray him in a way that has harmed his reputation. The district court dismissed all of Sarver’s claims. As a preliminary matter, the court concluded that it had little basis to conclude that New Jersey is Sarver's legal domicile at the time the film was released. Even assuming arguendo that New Jersey was Sarver’s domicile, the court concluded that California contacts predominate, and the Restatement (Second) of Conflicts section 145 factors weigh in favor of the application of California's anti-SLAPP law, Cal. Civ. Proc. Code 425.16. Under section 6 Second Restatement principles, California had the most significant relationship to this litigation, which was sufficient to overcome any presumption of Sarver's domicile. The court also concluded that defendants' anti-SLAPP motions were timely filed under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. On the merits, the court concluded that the film and the narrative of its central character Will James speak directly to issues of a public nature, and Sarver has failed to state and substantiate a legally sufficient claim. The film is speech that is fully protected by the First Amendment, which safeguards the storytellers and artists who take the raw materials of life - including the stories of real individuals, ordinary or extraordinary - and transform them into art. Therefore, the district court did not err in granting defendants’ anti-SLAPP motions. Finally, the court concluded that Sarver’s false light invasion of privacy, defamation, breach of contract, intentional infliction of emotional distress, fraud, and constructive fraud/negligent misrepresentation claims were properly dismissed. The court affirmed the judgment.