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'Samurai' Credit Challenge Dismissed

Judge rejects a writer's claim against studios but lets him pursue a suit against his union.

March 26, 2004|Michael Cieply | Times Staff Writer

A federal judge dismissed fraud and breach-of-contract claims against Warner Bros. Pictures Inc., Radar Pictures Inc. and filmmakers Edward Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz in connection with "The Last Samurai." But he left intact a challenge to the high-stakes credits arbitration process conducted by the union representing Hollywood writers.

The written ruling was issued Wednesday in Los Angeles by U.S. District Judge John F. Walter. It struck down claims by screenwriter Michael Alan Eddy that Zwick, Herskovitz and the two companies had cheated him out of a credit on the Tom Cruise historical adventure, which Eddy said was based on his earlier script "Eastern/Western."

The ruling did not affect a separate claim that the Western division of the Writers Guild of America illegally blocked Eddy from participating in an arbitration process that would have given him at least shared story credit had he been included.

The judge also left the door open for an amended complaint that would allow the writer to seek damages from Warner and Radar if he could prove that the guild failed in its duty to represent him properly.

The guild's closed-door arbitration process has been a source of friction among writers, whose professional reputation and pay may depend on the assignment of screen credit.

Anthony Segall, an attorney for the 9,000-member guild, said the union denied the claims against it and would continue to contest the suit.

Eddy's attorney, Neville Johnson, said he expected to file the amended complaint and continue his client's challenge to the guild's credit assignment.

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