On Monday, May 19, daughter of screenwriter Frank Petrella was allowed to take her "Raging Bull" copyright lawsuit against MGM back to the court. The 1980 movie directed by Martin Scorsese helped Robert De Niro win an Academy Award as best actor for his portrayal of the boxer Jake LaMotta.
Together with LaMotta, Petrella wrote the script in 1963 before he died in 1981. Rights to the screenplay were later given to his daughter Paula Petrella, who for some reasons, did not sue MGM until 18 years later. In 2009, she launched a $1 million lawsuit against the studio for copyright infringement of her father's script which she said the movie was based on. However, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Fransisco ruled back in August 2012 that she waited too long to file the suit.
Paula Petrella then petitioned the SCOTUS last year to have her case heard. By 6-to-3 vote, the Supreme Court ruled that the doctrine did not apply to copyright claims for damages. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote that Paula Petrella was entitled to recover damages for the three years before she sued. The Justice reasoned that it made sense that a plaintiff wanted to wait and see whether the case was worth enough money to make a suit.
MGM has responded to the ruling, saying they had been harmed by her delay in filing the suit because many important witnesses were no longer available. "While we agreed with the Ninth Circuit's conclusion that laches is an available defense against stale copyright claims, the Supreme Court has spoken," MGM lawyer Mark Perry of DC-based Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher told Deadline in a statement. "The decision, however, does not end this matter as we continue to believe that the plaintiff's case is legally and factually unsupportable. We look forward to vindicating our rights in the film Raging Bull in the lower courts."