Arthur R. Lehman, L.L.C.

Trial involving "Rebecca" producers and publicist begins in NYC

Fans of Alfred Hitchcock are drawn to his complex plots and fascinating characters. Now one of his best known movies, "Rebecca," has ended up in court in New York City, as the producers of a musical based on the movie are suing the show's form publicist for a number of business torts, including tortious interference with contract and defamation.

In the mid-2000s, two New York theatrical producers acquired the rights to the story with the intention of producing a musical based on the mystery. The play was originally supposed to open in London in 2012. Unfortunately, the producers did not raise enough money to stage the musical, and it was canceled. The producers next announced that they had arranged $4.5 million in financing from the estate of a multimillionaire named Paul Abrams. Plans for the production then hit another barrier: Paul Abrams did not exist. An intermediary had persuaded the producers that Mr. Abrams' money would be forthcoming, but instead, the intermediary was convicted of fraud and is now serving a three-year sentence.

The publicist for the planned production learned of these problems and sent several e-mails to another potential investor, warning him of the show's difficulties and of the shaky financing. The investor who received the e-mails eventually pulled his money out of the show. The show has never seen the stage. The producers, however, sued the publicist for tortious interference with their economic expectation based on the show, and for defamation. The trial has begun its run in New York Supreme Court (which is what the state's trial courts are called) with the lawyers' opening statements.

Whatever the outcome, this case promises to provide a textbook example of how a business alliance can turn into a bitter business dispute. Anyone who faces a similar situation may wish to consult a knowledgeable business lawyer for advice on potential strategies for maximizing the chances for a successful outcome. Whether a person's goal is to defeat the claims or to maximize the recovery of damages, the assistance of a experienced lawyer can be an invaluable aid.

Source: New York Times, "Trial for Broadway's 'Rebecca' Scandal Begins," Sopan Deb, April 24, 2017

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