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Ruling in Suit Is No Victory for Warner

November 15, 1998

* The court's ruling in Francis Coppola's lawsuit against Warner Bros. and Warner Bros.' public claim of "victory" were remarkable for two reasons ["$60 Million of Coppola's Studio Award Thrown Out," Oct. 15]:

First, the jury specifically found, and the trial court confirmed, that Warner Bros. intentionally and wrongfully interfered with Mr. Coppola's right to make a "Pinocchio" motion picture at Columbia Pictures.

The jury also found and the court confirmed that Warner acted with no justification whatsoever and that Warner damaged Coppola in the sum of $20 million. For Warner Bros. to claim "victory" in the face of these specific factual findings and this massive verdict unfortunately means that Warner hasn't heard the message that the jury sent so clearly.

Second, in this case, we had 12 jurors who took time away from their jobs and families in order to do their civic duty and render a just decision. After the evidence was completed, the jury spent five full days considering all of the evidence and not only made the findings set forth above, but also found, by clear and convincing evidence, that Warner Bros. acted with malice and fraud.

"Malice" was defined for the jury as meaning conduct that was intended to cause injury. Why the judge confirmed, on the one hand, that Warner Bros. intentionally and wrongfully harmed Coppola while on the other hand decided that there was no evidence of intentional conduct designed to harm Coppola is unclear, since she did not explain her ruling.

However, this obvious inconsistency will no doubt be resolved by the court of appeal and the punitive damages will be reinstated.

A Warner Bros. spokesman has been quoted as stating that a punitive damages award wouldsend the wrong "message" to the entertainment industry.

On the contrary, the multimillion-dollar award in Mr. Coppola's favor hopefully has sent the message that even a multibillion-dollar conglomerate must respect other people's rights or, when it is finally brought to justice, it will have to pay vast amounts in damages.

ROBERT S. CHAPMAN

Attorney

Greenberg Glusker Fields

Claman & Machtinger

Los Angeles

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