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Errors and omission insurance plays role in film controversy

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Purchasing an errors and omissions insurance policy is common for documentarians and journalists who want to protect themselves from legal issues that can arise related to how they approach their subject matter, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

The news source said one filmmaker, Bill Haney - who created a documentary called "The Price of Sugar," which depicted the harsh treatment of Haitian laborers on sugarcane plantations in the Dominican Republic - is being charged with defamation by Felipe and Juana Vicini Lluberes, senior executives of a family conglomerate that owns and operates Dominican sugar plantations.

The prosecutors believed Haney's film provided a false representation of how Haitians work at the sugar plantations. The case was recently re-opened because of he role of a fact-checker is in question. Haney obtained the services of a fact-checker to vet the script in order to secure error and omissions insurance prior to the film's release. The plaintiffs would like the fact-checker's annotated copy of the script to be presented as evidence in the case. A judge initially denied their request, but it is being reconsidered. The decision, according to the source, rests on whether the document contains "confidences made in pursuit of legal advice," in which case it would be protected by attorney-client privilege, or whether it instead contains "facts acquired from non-client sources," in which case it wouldn't.

While those in the film industry will want to keep an eye on the ultimate decision in the Haney case, the lawsuit does illustrate why it is important for filmmakers to obtain insurance, given that it has stretched on - running up legal costs - for nearly four years. Some other types of people who can benefit from E&O insurance are lawyers, chiropractors and engineers, because it covers the cost of judgments, attorneys and settlements.

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