Sgt. Jeffrey Sarver who is currently deployed in Afghanistan has sued over his alleged portrayal in the hit movie “The Hurt Locker.” Sarver says that movie was based on him and shows him committing unprofessional acts and practices. This has led, he alleges, to comments and teasing from other soldiers.
He has named director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal. Boal previously profiled Sarver for Playboy magazine. The complaint includes the following counts:
1. Misappropriation of Name or Likeness (Right to Publicity)
2. False Light
4. Breach of Contract
5. Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress
6. Intentional Fraud
7. Negligent Misrepresentation
The breach of contract claim is based on an agreement with the Department of Defense in exchange for access and “embedment.” The ability of Sarver to litigate such a claim as a third party is unlikely to be successful in this case. The defamation claims, which include per se claims, are equally doubtful. They include allegations that Sarver is portrayed as embarrassed of his son and insensitive to human life as well as being generally unstable. However, Sarver is not mentioned. The character is named Sgt. William James. Yet, presumably this is a per quod type of argument given the Playboy article. Per quod actions are based on defamation where the defamatory character of the statement is not apparent on its face, and extrinsic facts are required to explain its defamatory meaning.
A copy of the complaint can be found at this site. I am trying to find a link without the obnoxious stamped “thewrap.com” across the pages — making it difficult to read.
The lawsuit is unlikely to succeed but could raise some interesting issues in court. The movie itself begins with a quote about war from War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning that could easily apply (with a couple of edits) to litigation: “The rush of [litigation] is a potent and often lethal addiction, for [litigation] is a drug.”