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Author Files $1 Million Lawsuit Against "American Hustle" Producers

screenshot of Jennifer Lawrence in American Hustle

In the movie American Hustle, Rosalyn says: “You know, I read that it [the microwave oven] takes all of the nutrition out of our food. It’s empty, just like your deals. Empty, Empty.”Investigative science writer and author Paul Broduer has filed a $1 million lawsuit against three American Hustle movie producers for libel, slander, defamation and false light.

Brodeur's complaint is based on a striking scene in the movie where the characters say that microwaves take the nutrition out of foods.

The complaint was filed in the Superior Court of California, Los Angeles County, against Atlas Entertainment, Annapurna Productions, and Columbia Pictures Industries.

American Hustle, released in December 2013, is a loose fictional adaptation of the 1970 Abscam scandal, in which the federal government engaged in a two-year sting operation targeting white collar crimes. With the help of a convicted con man, the agency caught several public officials accepting bribes in exchange for political favors.

“Takes All of the Nutrition Out of Our Food”

The complaint describes the exploded microwave scene in detail. The wife Rosalyn Rosenfeld (Jennifer Lawrence) argues with her husband Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) about the microwave.

Rosalyn says: “You know, I read that it [the microwave oven] takes all of the nutrition out of our food. It’s empty, just like your deals. Empty, Empty.”

Irving responds: “That’s bullshit.”

Rosalyn: “It’s not bullshit. I read it in an article. (She holds up a magazine) Look, by Paul Brodeur.”

The complaint alleges "it is obvious" that the [husband] believed his wife's statements because he adjusted his glasses and took ten seconds – a very long time in a film – to read the article."

Brodeur's exact statement was made during an interview following the 1977 release of his book titled, The Zapping of America: Microwaves, Their Deadly Risk, and the Coverup. 

No known danger

The interviewer asked Brodeur, “Is there any danger in eating food cooked by microwaves?” Brodeur replied, “None that is known.”  People Magazine, Vol. 9, No. 4 January 30, 1978.

The complaint goes on to highlight FDA and World Health Organization studies explaining nutritional benefits of foods cooked in microwave ovens.

Brodeur claims by misquoting his statements the producers have suggested he made scientifically unsupported statements, damaged his reputation, and tended to directly injure plaintiff in his profession as a skilled writer on scientific subjects.

The plaintiff has to establish the defendants presented the statement as true and knew or should have known the statement was false.

The opening film credits say "some of this actually happened." The producers changed the majority of names and details from the actual event intentionally to avoid legal liability. The mention of the author's name may not be enough to prove the producers acted with gross negligence and malice. Both standards present a substantially high burden.

This is a very small scene in the film and it is likely that most viewers passed over the author of the alleged article. However, most producers or lead staff should perform research prior to using any persons name in a nationally distributed film. Performing the extra step may prevent unexpected complaints such as Brodeur's.

Brodeur request $1 million in damages as well as an injunction to remove his name from any copies of the movie sold to the public.

Attorneys for the plaintiff are Steven Kazan and David McClain of Kazan, McClain, Satterley & Greenwood PLC, Oakland CA.

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