Judge throws out suit against ‘The Help’ author
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Did Kathryn Stockett use her brother’s African American maid as the basis for a character in the bestselling novel-turned-movie “The Help?”
For now, that question may go unanswered, by a court anyway.
A Mississippi judge threw out a lawsuit Tuesday in which Ablene Cooper alleged Stockett used her likeness without permission in a book about relationships between white families and their black maids in the segregated South of the 1960s.
Hinds County Circuit Judge Tomie Green granted a motion for summary judgment, dismissing the case because a one-year statute of limitations elapsed between when Stockett gave Cooper a copy of the book and when the lawsuit was filed. The lawsuit sought $75,000 in damages.
Stockett was not in court in Jackson, the same city where the book is set.
Cooper wiped away tears leaving the courtroom and launched into a tirade outside the courthouse.
“She’s a liar. She did it. She knows she did it,” Cooper screamed.
The judge did not make any determination on whether Cooper was the basis for the character, Aibileen, saying the statute of limitations trumped those matters.
Besides the similarities in names, Cooper’s lawsuit says she lost a son shortly before going to work for Stockett’s brother, where she takes care of two children, a boy and a girl. Cooper’s lawsuit says that’s the same as the character portrayed in the book.
Cooper’s attorney, Edward Sanders, told The Associated Press he will consider the legal options available, including an appeal.
Melissa Broder, Stockett’s publicist, had no comment. One of Stockett’s attorneys, Fred Banks Jr., had no immediate comment either, saying he would release a statement later.
Stockett’s attorneys said in court records that Aibileen is based on the late Demetrie McLorn, the Stockett family’s housekeeper, who died when the author was a teenager.
“The Help” was made into a movie that opened last week. It debuted at No. 2 nationwide, bringing in $26 million.