MGM is in a bit of an odd situation right now. They have reason to be excited as James Bond 25 has locked down a 2019 release date and the project is finally moving forward. On the flip side, they are in the middle of a big of a messy lawsuit that they are now going to have to face in a big way. The suit is over the Bond 50 box set, which promises “all the Bond films gathered together for the first time,” but didn’t include Casino Royale (1967) and Never Say Never Again (1983). A judge has ruled that Mary Johnson, who is suing on behalf of herself and others who purchased the box set, has a legitimate claim and her suit against MGM and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment will move forward.
The news comes from The Hollywood Reporter, who state that U.S. District Court judge Ricardo Martinez has ruled that Mary Johnson has a right to sue MGM over the Bond 50 set, which included all of the canon James Bond movies, but did not include the Casino Royale TV movie that is not part of the actual series and Never Say Never Again, which was part of a rival Bond franchise at the time that brought back Sean Connery for what was essentially a remake of Thunderball. However, because the packaging used the words “every” and “all” when talking about the movies that were included, the judge concludes that it is reasonable for those who purchased the box set to feel that would have included the two movies that were not in the set. Here’s what judge had to say in the order that has been passed down.
“The Court finds the questions of how a reasonable person would interpret ‘all’ and ‘every’ and what qualifies as a James Bond film remain for the trier of fact to decide. These terms are not unequivocally puffery as a matter of law. Defendants fail to adequately address Plaintiff’s argument as to the omission of Casino Royale and Never Say Never Again or the need for a disclaimer. Even if a reasonable consumer examines the box-sets’ entire packaging, they would only know which films are included. That consumer would not know whether the box-set includes ‘all’ James Bond films or which films are excluded. This could constitute a deceptive act under the WCPA. The Court finds Plaintiff has adequately pled a claim for relief under the WCPA.”
MGM is trying to claim that consumers who purchased the Bond 50 box set knew what they were getting, as the contents of the set were listed on the packaging. However, judge Ricardo Martinez managed to make a fairly solid pun in his ruling by saying that Mary Johnson has grounds here, by saying, “From the Defendant’s’ perspective, this claim will have to Die Another Day.” This was just one of the James Bond puns the judge managed to cram into his ruling.
“At this time, the Court will Live and Let Die.”
For those who aren’t hardcore James Bond fans, it may seem perfectly reasonable to assume that both the earlier version of Casino Royale and Never Say Never Again would have been included in this set, but there are just as many reasons that they wouldn’t. Since neither movie is considered part of the official 007 canon, it is understandable that MGM wouldn’t want those movies in the set, even though they now own the rights to both movies. That said, promising that “all” of the movies were included in the Bond 50 set was a bit misleading for the average Bond fan. But does anyone really need to see David Niven as 007 that badly?
There are lots of complexities that are going to need to be argued by both sides in this lawsuit. For one, Mary Johnson purchased her box set on Amazon, which presents some complications. MGM and Fox argue that there was no contractual relationship, since she purchased her box-set from a second party. In any case, MGM and Fox are going to have to spend some time and money to see this James Bond box set lawsuit through, which could get messy since they sold quite a few of those Bond 50 sets.