This post is part of an occasional series highlighting the type of risks which film and TV producers face and which are supposed to be covered by E&O insurance, and which aims to demonstrate that what might seem to a producer to be paranoia on the part of their lawyer is, in fact, well-founded. These posts will point to actual lawsuits which have been filed against film/TV producers for various alleged rights infringements (whether copyright, trade-mark, right of publicity, or otherwise) – and which inform the nit-picking approach taken by producer’s counsel.
Eriq Gardner at THR, Esq. reports that the owners of a private home are suing NBCUniversal and Shed Media because of the appearance of scenes shot in their home on the television series Bethenny Ever After. Producers and their counsel are probably scratching their heads at this point: didn’t they get a location agreement? They did – but the plaintiffs in the lawsuit are claiming that the individual(s) who signed the location agreement were not the owners of the home, but merely tenants, without the authority to sign such an agreement and grant the required permissions.
Lesson? Conduct a title search to determine who is registered as the owner of the property which you’d like to use, and make sure that person (or someone who demonstrates that they have authority to sign on their behalf) signs your location agreement. (For other Signal thoughts on location agreements, see So You Want Your House to be Famous? Pitfalls of Location Agreements.)