January 28th, 2013

Defamation Lawsuit Against Lauren Greenfield Thrown Out of Federal Court

The Orlando Sentinel is reporting that the lawsuit brought against photographer and filmmaker Lauren Greenfield by one of the subjects of her award-winning documentary “The Queen of Versailles” has been thrown out by a federal judge in Orlando. The parties have been ordered to seek arbitration.

Greenfield and the Sundance Institute, which runs the Sundance Film Festival, were sued for defamation by timeshare developer David A. Siegel, whose family is the subject of Greenfield’s documentary. “The Queen of Versailles” tells the story of the billionaire Siegels as they attempt to build the biggest house in America, only to struggle as the economic downturn threatens their business and their 90,000-square-foot dream home.

The content of the film was not at issue; the lawsuit was over the press release for the film. In his lawsuit, Siegel claimed that the original press release for the Sundance Film Festival premiere of the film made three false and defamatory statements: That “[the Siegel's] timeshare empire collapses”; that “[the Siegel's] house is foreclosed”; and that the film tells a “rags-to-riches-to-rags story.”

Lawyers for Siegel objected to the wording of the press release. It was amended and publications that covered the news, including The New York Times, were contacted to correct the information. The suit alleged, however, that the damage to Siegel’s reputation, and that of his timeshare business, Westgate Resorts, LTD. had been done because the original description had already spread via the internet, appearing on more than 12,000 Web sites, according to the complaint.

In her decision, which was filed on Thursday, U.S. District Judge Anne Conway noted that Siegel’s testimony before the court was “inconsistent and incredible.”

Related: Greenfield Wins Sundance Director Prize
Lauren Greenfield Sued For Defamation By Documentary Subject