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Indian LPO firm scores Hollywood victory

Praveen Bose  |  Bangalore 

Indian lawyers at Solutions based in have scored their own triumph. The lawyers, from Mysore, did this with their legal research, and by drafting motion papers, to defeat a Los Angeles libel case against HBO’s ‘Da Ali G Show’, starring actor Sacha Baron Cohen.

This case is said to be historic, and not only because it is one of the first “libel-in-fiction” cases in the television context but also because it is the first high-profile, US media litigation in which the legal research and first drafts of the motion papers for the defence were completed entirely offshore, by Indian attorneys at a legal process outsourcing (LPO) firm.

The team was led by Padmavathi Shantamurthy, a team of lawyers bill out at between $30 and $90 an hour. This is much lower than that charged by US law firms that would have had to do research locally.

LPOs like SDD Global, Atlas Legal Research, Lexadigm and others, have drafted a brief for many a US litigation. In this case, though, it resulted in a decision protecting comedy writers, comedians, and their producers and broadcasters. The lawyers at drafted, and are credited by name in the summary judgement brief for dismissal of Doe vs. HBO — the lawsuit filed by a woman who once knew comedian Sacha Baron Cohen and claimed that Cohen, while playing the role of the TV character, ‘Ali G’, libeled her by name during a spoof interview with historian Gore Vidal.

Suing under the legal pseudonym, ‘Jane Doe’, the plaintiff claimed Cohen, as ‘Ali G’, falsely claimed to have had sexual relations with her. In the brief drafted in India, the defence argued: “No reasonable person could have believed the statements, given they were made by what the plaintiff now admits is a ‘fictional character’, in the context of a series of absurd and unbelievable jokes, in what she admits is a ‘comedy’, where the actor never steps out of his fictional role. This is confirmed by the fact the plaintiff has no evidence anyone believed any statement, much less the statement at the core of the lawsuit, namely, the plaintiff had sex with a fictional character. As a matter of California and US constitutional law, such statements are not actionable.”

First Published: Thu, May 14 2009. 00:01 IST