Disney sued over 'Ransom' Machinists bring action in Prince George's court

December 24, 1996|By BLOOMBERG BUSINESS NEWS

UPPER MARLBORO -- Walt Disney Co. was sued by the International Associations of Machinists yesterday over the labor group's portrayal in the hit film "Ransom," which has a reference to a corrupt Machinists official.

The suit, filed in Prince George's County Circuit Court, seeks $50 million in compensatory damages, plus punitive damages, for allegedly injuring the union's reputation.

The film describes a person known as a corrupt "Machinists Union" official who accepts a $250,000 bribe to prevent a strike.

"The day when you could paint unions with the broad brush of corruption and get away with it is over," George Kourpias, the union's president, said in a statement.

Disney couldn't immediately be reached for comment. The movie has grossed more than $117 million since it was released Nov. 2, making it one of the most popular films of the holiday season.

"Ransom" stars Mel Gibson as a wealthy airline owner whose son is kidnapped.

The real Machinists union said in a statement that it has fielded hundreds of calls from members and the public about the references to the organization in the film. It said that companies which it did not identify have used the film to discourage workers from joining the union.

Disney-owned Touchstone Pictures, which released the film, denied requests by the union to delete the references, the union said.

The lawsuit also names the film's co-writers, Richard Price and Alexander Ignon.

The UAM has more than 700,000 members, who work mostly in the airline, aerospace, railroad and trucking industries.

Disney shares fell 12.5 cents to $72.25 yesterday in trading of 812,200.

Pub Date: 12/24/96

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